Facebook restarts talks over Australia media law

Facebook has returned to negotiations with the Australian government over a controversial media law, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Saturday.

The social media giant had blocked all news articles from appearing in Australia in response to an upcoming law that would require Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for their content being shared on their platforms.

“I’m pleased Facebook has decided, it would seem, to tentatively friend us again and get those discussions going again … to ensure that the protections we want to put in place to ensure we have a free and democratic society that is supported by an open news media can continue,” Morrison was quoted telling media on Saturday.

While Google struck license agreements with publishers including Murdoch-owned News Corp, Facebook has not.

The block on its platform led to a 13 percent drop in traffic to those sites, according to Reuters.

The company was slammed for also blocking links to government and health department websites just as the country launches a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign this week.

“This is a really hard thing to do,” Simon Milner, Facebook’s vice president of public policy for the Asia Pacific region told the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday. “We’ve never done it before. We are sorry for the mistakes we made in some of the implementation.”

Facebook and Google said Australia’s proposals threaten the principals of an open internet.

Still, the Australian government is moving forward with the proposal, which could be made law once approved by the Senate. The proposal has already been approved by the country’s lower house.

“The Australian government’s position is very clear, people would know the strong support being provided internationally for Australia’s position,” Morrison said, citing similar rules in the EU, and Canada’s own plans for a media law.

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