Facebook has reversed its ban on news content in Australia - here’s why

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 11:04 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 11:04 am
Facebook has reversed its ban on news content in Australia - here’s why (Photo: Shutterstock)

Facebook is to restore news content for its users in Australia, the social network has announced.

News was blocked to Australians on the social media platform last Thursday (18 Feb), with users unable to read or share any news stories on their accounts.

Australian Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg had told him the ban would end “in the coming days”, after the pair held talks.

“Facebook has re-friended Australia,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Why was news blocked on Facebook in Australia?

Facebook blocked Australian’s news access on the social networking platform last Thursday in response to a proposed legislation, currently being debated in the country's Senate.

The Government’s new code aims to create a “fairer” relationship between tech giants and news companies, aiming to improve the negotiation process over the value of news content.

Facebook and Google have been strongly opposed to the new legislation, claiming the code misunderstands how the internet works. However, the Australian government has said the code is necessary to “level the playing field” for news publishers, who have seen a dramatic loss of profits since the arrival of the internet.

The news block saw publishers unable to post any content to the social network, and users were unable to see previously posted content on pages.

However, the change brought with it several unintended consequences, as content from emergency services disappeared, and some Australian government health department Facebook accounts were affected, including ones which share information about Covid-19 pandemic and vaccine information.

Why has Facebook overturned the block?

Campbell Brown, vice president of global news partnerships at Facebook, said: “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 forced negotiation.

"We have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers."

The code will have four further amendments introduced, including one that means the Government may not apply the code to Facebook if it can demonstrate a "significant contribution" to local journalism.

There will be a two month mediation period before government enforced arbitration kicks in, giving parties more time to reach a private deal.