In an extraordinary backflip, Facebook announced Tuesday it will reverse its block on Australian users sharing news on its site and accept proposed government media bargaining laws that force it to pay for content.
The capitulation came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Facebook “arrogant,” warning against “Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”
Discussions between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg have now delivered a result in the government’s favor and stemmed the fierce public backlash against the media giant.
“Mark Zuckerberg said to me today [restoring pages] will occur in coming days,” Frydenberg said, the ABC reports.
Frydenberg added Australia had been a “proxy battle” for the rest of the world on the regulation of Google and Facebook.
“I have no doubt that so many other countries are looking at what is happening here in Australia, because of this innovative code the Morrison government is now pursuing, so Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia, and that is why they have sought to get a code here that is workable,” he said.
The result was immediately applauded across the Australian media landscape and in government circles:
Australia 1 // Facebook 0
— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) February 23, 2021
Facebook initially argued it had been forced to block Australian news in response to the proposed legislation, objecting to having to negotiate and set up a “fairer” negotiation process between the tech giants and news companies over the value of news content.
Morrison very quickly made clear his conservative coaliton government would set the terms and Facebook would have to comply as part of the long-running dispute.
Australia is Not. Backing. Down. against extreme-Left Big Tech! Australian lawmakers will proceed with world-first legislation that will make Alphabet's Google and Facebook pay publishers for content. https://t.co/FyKBaesoCZ
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 12, 2021
Google was also caught up in the fight, but it signed payment deals with three major Australian media outlets while Facebook tried to make Canberra blink first.
It didn’t, and Morrison won wide praise for backing local media outlets over Big Tech operators.
India and the UK have already said they watched the media battle Down Under with interest and have flagged plans to follow Canberra’s lead.
Canada has gone one step furter, and as Breitbart News reported Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said last Thursday his country will now make Facebook compensate Canadian news organizations for using their content just as Australia has succeeded in doing.
He called Facebook’s action against Australia “highly irresponsible” and said Canada would “move forward to put in place fair legislation between news media and web giants.”
“Last week, I met with my Australian, Finnish, German and French counterparts to work together on this issue. The more of us around the table adopting similar regulations, the harder it will be for Facebook to continue such actions. There is strength in numbers!” he said.