Australian parliament passes news code after Facebook, Google battles

Australian lawmakers have passed a “world-first” digital news code that requires Facebook and Google to negotiate with publishers about paying for news content, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said on Thursday.

Both chambers of parliament approved an amended media bill to comply with an agreement struck earlier in the week between Facebook and the government.

“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in ,’’ Frydenberg said.

Last week, Facebook blocked Australians from viewing and sharing news articles on its platform.

This is in response to new rules that would require the giant to pay news outlets for their content.

Facebook argued that there was no need to set up the new rules, as publishers benefit from the current arrangement, whereby users get fed a steady stream of posts, including articles from news providers.

As originally written, the legislation would have forced internet firms like Facebook to pay media organisations for news shared on the service.

But the new tweaks provide more wiggle room, including a process that lets the government decide whether a company like Facebook has made a contribution to the Australian news industry before making a decision on whether payments are required.

It also provides scope for Facebook and others to strike their own deals with local companies.

During the negotiating stages, Google threatened to pull its platform out of the country altogether but has since made deals with most large media companies in .

In a Wednesday blog post, explaining its side of the battle, Facebook said there was a “fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Facebook and news publishers’’.

The giant also said it had invested $600 million since 2018 to support the news industry and it plans at least $1 billion more over the next three years.

It was working on similar payment deals with large publishers in the U.S. and Britain, it said. (dpa/NAN)

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