Josh Frydenberg says Facebook’s ban on Australian news will end on Friday

Annabel HennesssySarah IsonThe West Australian
VideoAustralia is trying to pass legislation that will require digital platforms to pay local media outlets and publishers for news

Australian news content will return to Facebook today just after the Government’s world-first legislation which forces tech companies to pay for journalism officially became law.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook had informed him that Australian news stories would be unblocked from the platform today following a dramatic stand-off between the Government and the Silicon Valley giant.

Yesterday the Government News Media Bargain Code which aims to restore the imbalance of power between media companies and tech giants passed parliament yesterday.

“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“Importantly, the code encourages parties to undertake commercial negotiations outside the code and the Government is pleased to see progress by both Google and more recently Facebook in reaching commercial arrangements with Australian news media businesses.”

Facebook blocked Australian news content last week in an attempt to protest against the laws, but Facebook chief executive agreed to remove the ban after Mr Frydenberg agreed to amendments.

Charities, government pages and even the page of WA Opposition leader Zak Kirkup had been temporarily banned.

In a blog post this week Facebook admitted it had gone too far in blocking pages belonging to charities and government

“It wasn’t a decision taken lightly...But when it came, we had to take action quickly because it was legally necessary to do so before the new law came into force, and so we erred on the side of over-enforcement,” wrote Facebook global affairs vice-president Nick Clegg.

“In doing so, some content was blocked inadvertently. Much of this was, thankfully, reversed quickly.”

Mr Frydenberg described the code as a “significant microeconomic reform” that has “drawn the eyes of the world on the Australian Parliament. Our commitment to legislating the code reflects the importance of a diverse and well-resourced news media sector to our democracy and the Australian people”.

Seven West Media, the publisher of The West Australian, was the first media organisation to announce a deal with Facebook.

Seven West Media has also reached an agreement with Google.

The passage of the laws has been celebrated by overseas news outlets who have called for their own countries to introduce similar legislation to make tech companies pay for journalism.

The European Publishers Council and News Media Europe said what had happened in Australia and France, where the has also been a tech giant crackdown, showed the need for similar legislation in Europe.

“The experiences in France and Australia have shown us that there’s a real need for a binding instrument to address inherent imbalances in bargaining power with gate-keepers, which undermine the potential of Europe’s press sector,” president of News Media Europe Fernando de Yarza said.

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