Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has returned Facebook to the negotiating table today (Saturday), after blocking access to Australian news channels through his website this week. It was reported by Reuters.
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Facebook’s abrupt decision to prevent Australians from sharing news on its site and the removal of local and foreign news channels from its shelves also included several state emergency accounts, causing widespread anger. “The company again accepted us as members,” Morrison said at a press conference in Sydney. “The thing I’m pleased with is that Facebook is back on the table.”
Facebook has shown no signs of changing its position in relation to a law proposed in the country that would require social media platforms to pay for links to news content. Australian Finance Minister Josh Freidenberg said yesterday that he spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and further talks are expected to take place over the weekend.
Against this backdrop, Australia intends to go ahead with the precedent set by law, allowing more countries in the world to decide the suit. Australian legislation, which would force Facebook and Google to reach commercial agreements with Australian media companies or face forced arbitration, has already passed the lower house and is expected to be passed in the Senate next week.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s policy director for the Asia-Pacific region, was quoted earlier today as telling the Sydney Morning Herald that the company’s law has three main objections. Facebook has opposed restrictions on selection between various media channels that ask for payment, arbitration models that allow an independent body to choose a particular form of payment, and to enter into commercial agreements with Australian media companies The compulsion of, Milner said.
Australian law is also being investigated by other countries. Canadian Heritage Minister Stephen Gilboa said on Thursday that his country would adopt the Australian approach through legislation, which is planned to be passed in the coming months.
Facebook’s move had an immediate impact on traffic to Australian news sites. According to New York company Cheritbit, total traffic to Australian news sites from various platforms has fallen by around 13% within the country.
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