Facebook to restore news pages in Australia soon, says govt agreed to changes

Social media giant Facebook Inc. said it will restore news pages in Australia after reaching an agreement with the government.

Restrictions on news sharing on Facebook’s Australian platform should be lifted “in the coming days,” William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia, said in a statement Tuesday.

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“We are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns,” Easton said.

Why did Facebook ban news pages?

Facebook blocked news pages in Australia last week in opposition to a planned law to force the US company and Google to pay Australian publishers for news content.

Australia’s government condemned the decision, which also prevented some government communications, including messages about emergency services, as well as some commercial pages.

The digital platforms fear that what’s happening in Australia will become an expensive precedent that larger countries will follow.

“Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed and they will damage its reputation here in Australia,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who added that he was given no warning before Facebook acted.

Facebook said the proposed Australian law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it.”

“This is an assault on a sovereign nation,” Health Minster Greg Hunt told Parliament. “It is an assault on people’s freedom and, in particular, it’s an utter abuse of big technologies’ market power and control over technology.”

‘Won’t change law’

The Australian government had earlier said that it will not change proposed laws that would make Google and Facebook ay news outlets for content.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

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