After the government offered changes to legislation that would require tech companies to pay for media content posted on their sites, Facebook has agreed to restore Australian news pages.
The compromise on Tuesday came during a standoff over the so-called Media Negotiating Code that lasted more than a week between the Australian government and the social media community.
Facebook and Google strongly opposed the Australian law plan, which would require the tech companies to enter into contractual agreements with Australian publishers or face mandatory arbitration. The bill was passed last Wednesday by the House of Representatives, leading Facebook to ban the access and posting of all news on its website by its 13 million Australian users.
The blackout also deleted content, causing widespread outrage, on the websites of emergency services, health authorities and non-profit organizations.
After a series of talks over the weekend between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg of Australia and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Australian government and Facebook announced a deal on Tuesday.
Four changes will be offered by Australia, including a move to the mandatory arbitration process used when tech companies are unable to reach an agreement with publishers on equal payment for showing news material.
“We are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them,” Facebook said in a statement posted online.
The reforms include a two-month period of mediation until the arbitrator appointed by the government intervenes, allowing the parties more flexibility to negotiate a private settlement. It also inserts a provision to take account of the contribution of an internet business to the “sustainability of the Australian news industry” through existing deals.
As other nations, including the United Kingdom and Canada, consider similar rules, the topic has been widely observed globally.
“These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated,” Frydenberg said in a statement.
“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” he added.
Until Monday, Australia had indicated that it would make no further changes to the law.
Nine Entertainment Co, the Australian publisher and broadcaster spokesman, supported the government’s agreement, which it said moved “Facebook back into negotiations with Australian media organizations.”
A spokesperson for Google refused to comment.
Chairman Rod Sims of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the key author of the legislation, was not immediately available for comment. Sims refused to address questions about the standoff in a speech earlier on Tuesday, on the grounds that it was before Parliament.