Facebook will restore access to Australian news content in the coming days, after receiving further concessions from the government to the controversial News Media Bargaining Code.

But it has indicated it is ready to remove news content again if it feels its presence on the platform will lead to Facebook being forced into negotiations with Australian publishers.

“The Government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” Josh Frydenberg said in a statement today announcing further amendments to the proposed legislation enabling the controversial News Media Bargaining laws today. 

The changes lessen the likelihood of Facebook and Google are subject to the code which was designed to reign them in and adds further steps before the final offer arbitration the tech giants have fiercely opposed.

The code now also requires even more consideration of the value the platform giants provide to publishers – something the code has already been changed to accommodate. The Treasurer must now also consider the platform’s contribution to the sustainability of Australian media through its commercial deals when deciding whether to subject a company to the code and give any company that is designated 30 days notice – more time to sign deals and avoid the code.

Facebook says it has assurances from the government it will be allowed to remove news content from the platform to avoid forced arbitration.

“Going forward, the [Australian] 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,” Facebook’s VP, global news partnerships said in a company post.

Facebook removed news content from Australian users last week, saying Australia’s upcoming News Media Bargaining Code created an unacceptable risk it would be forced into unfair arbitration, among other grievances.

Today, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced further amendments to the legislation which he said will clarify the code’s scope and “strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated”.

Per Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher, the changes include: 

  • a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
  • a digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
  • non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
  • final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

Facebook says it is now satisfied with the government’s amendments which address its “core concerns” with the code.

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