Facebook lifts ban on news pages in Australia, govt to amend social media laws

Facebook has re-friended Australia.

Julia Yeo | February 23, 2021, 08:25 PM

Facebook has agreed to reverse its ban on news in Australia and restore news content for users in the country on its social media platform.

Facebook reverses ban on Australian news

On Feb. 23, the tech giant announced in an update on its website that it has reached an agreement with the Australian government, and will be restoring news on Facebook in the country 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," wrote Campbell Brown, the Vice President of Facebook's Global News Partnership team.

According to the statement, the agreement will allow Facebook to support publishers that it chooses to, including small and local publishers.

Australian government to amend laws

Last Thursday (Feb. 18), the Australian House of Representatives passed proposed media bargaining laws which will require social media companies to pay its media outlets for using their content.

Shortly after the proposal for the new laws were passed, Facebook imposed its ban across the country.

Facebook users outside Australia also could not access news from Australian media outlets on Facebook.

However, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that amendments would be made to the law, reported BBC.

"Facebook has re-friended Australia," he told reporters on Feb. 23.

Shortly after Facebook's surprise ban last Thursday, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said the tech giant had "unfriended Australia".

The Australian government and the tech giant appear to have reached a compromise, with Australian authorities to introduce four further amendments.

This includes one that suggests the code may not apply to Facebook if it can demonstrate a "significant contribution" to local journalism, according to BBC.

The amendments also include a two-month mediation period before the government steps in, giving Facebook and other parties more time to negotiate a private deal.

Facebook ban angered Aussies

Facebook's ban angered users across the country, and stirred international backlash as well, with some calling the move restrictive. Others pointed out that the ban on credible news sources could lead to the proliferation of false news.

On Twitter, hashtag #DeleteFacebook trended in the country, with local businesses calling to pull all paid advertising on the platform as well.

Media observer Peter Lewis told The Drum that he had "no doubt" global pressure played a part in Facebook lifting its ban after less than one week.

"One of the first leaders Scott Morrison called was the Indian Prime Minister, and Facebook is desperate to get a foothold into India," Lewis said. "I feel that Facebook pushed the button, they pushed it too hard."

Top image via Getty Images.