ABC News reported Facebook will walk back its block on Australian users sharing news on its site after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws that would force major tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.
This decision is a result of negotiations between the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ABC News quoted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as saying, “Mark Zuckerberg said to me today [restoring pages] will occur in coming days.”
Facebook updated its post on its Facebook Journalism Project (that was originally about the company’s decision to restrict the availability of Australian news on Facebook) with this:
“After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation. It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”
Personally, I am skeptical of Facebook’s claim that it has always been their intention to support journalism in Australia. If it cared about supporting news publishers it would not have banned Australian News. That decision caused collateral damage as it also resulted in blocking Australian and local news to Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Facebook’s decision also enabled anti-vaccine misinformation to spread widely since real Australian news organizations were unable to respond to and correct the misinformation in those posts. This happened at the very beginning of Australia’s vaccine rollout. In short, Facebook’s attempt to avoid paying for news may have resulted in vaccine hesitancy among some Australians.