Australian Prime Minister Says Facebook At The Negotiating Table; News Blackout Still On

After the social media giant Facebook blocked news on its platform in Australia, the United States based tech giant is back at the negotiating table, said the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday.

There was wide spread anger in Australia after Facebook decided to abruptly prevent its Australian users from sharing news on the platform and blocking the pages of domestic and foreign news outlets while also removing a number of accounts of the state government and emergency departments of the country.

At a news conference in Sydney, Morrison said that the company has “tentatively friended us again.”

“What I’m pleased about it that Facebook is back at the table again,” he said.

The latest action taken by Facebook as in opposition to a proposed new content law in Australia under which social media platforms were required to shell out money for using links of new content on its platform and has so far given to intention publicly to change its stance on the issue.

Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had talked to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and had expected more negotiations dur4ing the week end, Frydenberg had said on Friday. It was not apparent whether those talks have indeed taken place.

There were no further comments on the talks by either a Facebook spokeswoman or representatives for Frydenberg.

This tussle with the social media giant as well as the search engine giant Google comes amid Australian government pushing ahead with the implementation of the historic legislation, which according to analysts, could become a precedence globally with countries like Canada also confirming their intention to taking similar steps to support news outlets in their countries.

Under the new proposed law in Australia, Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google could be forced to strike commercial deals with Australian publishers or face compulsory arbitration. The law has been passed by the lower house of parliament of the country and is expected to be passed by the Senate within the next week.

Facebook had three main objections to the legislation, Facebook’s Asia-Pacific policy director of policy for the Asia-Pacific region, Simon Milner, was quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday.

One of the objections is the imposition of the new law that prevents the company from discriminating between different news outlets that are seeking money, while it also does not agree to the proposed arbitration models under the new law that allow selection of one payment over another by an independent body. The third objection of the company to the law is the obligation imposed on Facebook to strike commercial agreements with Australian media companies, Milner said.

Australia’s legislation is being widely watched overseas.

Canada could also adopt the Australian approach as the country is preparing its own legislation which is to be finalised within the next few months, said the country’s Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault on Thursday.

On the other hand, Google has already struck preemptive licensing deals over the past week with media outlets, including a global agreement with News Corp, even though the company had previously threatened to stop some of the services in Australia.

(Adapted from MoneyControl.com)

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