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Facebook to reverse news ban on Australian sites

Facebook (FB) has barred Australians from finding or sharing news on its service, a dramatic escalation of a fight with the government that may have wide-ranging consequences both in the country and around the world. The social networking company on Wednesday in a snap decision said that people and publishers in Australia will no longer be able to share or see any news from local or international outlets. The decision appears to be the most restrictive move Facebook has ever taken against content publishers.

Facebook users in Australia are slowly coming to terms with the fact that they’ll no longer be able to get their daily news updates on the platform. The move was a direct response to Australia’s proposed “new media code,” which would force it to pay news publishers for the right to link to their content in news feeds.

Sydney resident Fred Azis-Laranjo shared that he thinks Facebook’s decision will “massively backfire” and that Facebook will lose fans and customers in Australia as a result. “It will inconvenience and annoy a huge group of the population who get their news from their Facebook news feed,” he said. He added, “Longer term, I think it is a good thing if it encourages more people to seek news more proactively, which will likely mean they’re exposed to a greater diversity of views and will also likely benefit established news organizations over niche players.”

“What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, wrote in a blog post. “Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook.” “I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again,” Brown added.

Facebook’s actions have divided opinion across the country, with some indifferent, and others angry. The #deletefacebook hashtag was trending on Twitter in Australia on Thursday. After a huge discussion and consequences, Facebook concluded and will restore news to Australian pages in the next few days after the government agreed to change its landmark media bargaining code that would force the social network and Google to pay for displaying news content.

The government’s news code aims to set up a “fairer” negotiation process between the tech giants and news companies over the value of news content. Facebook said in a statement that it was “pleased” the company was able to reach an agreement with the government.

“[We] appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher over the past week,” it said. “After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to several 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. “As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”

By Karishma Gwalani

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