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Facebook backpedals, now allows news sharing in Australia

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The back and forth exchanges and actions by Facebook and the Australian government that got to its peak last week with the shutout of news content and several pages of government agencies by the social networking site. The action of Facebook was in response to the government’s proposed legislation that could see Facebook liable to pay news publishers for news content shared on the social networking site. The company had insisted that the Australian government unfairly targeted it in ignorance of how such news content is shared on its platform.

That action by Facebook drew a deluge of reactions from across Australia, with some government officials accusing Facebook of attempting to bully the Australian government. However, it would seem that Facebook’s action may have produced some positive effect, with the amendment of the law in question. The amendment has put in place a two-month mediation period before Facebook can be liable for arbitration with publishers. In addition, it also says the government will look at commercial agreements entered between Facebook and local publishers to establish whether the law is applicable in such instances.

And Facebook has now responded in kind by announcing that it will be restoring news sharing to Australia in the next few days. In a statement by Facebook’s Australia managing director William Easton, Facebook said that the amendments have assuaged its fundamental concerns about allowing commercial deals that reflect the value the Facebook platform provides to publishers to be unfettered and unaltered by the new legislation.

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The company continues to insist that the law was driven by ignorance and a poor perception of the importance of Facebook as a news sharing platform. News sharing on the platform has been very beneficial to the news publishers, as well as the government of Australia which has several parastatals and public agencies using Facebook as their media for information dissemination.

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It is hoped that Australians do not have to face this trauma again.

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