Facebook has transcended the sphere of social media and has become a pertinent part of our day to day lives, a fact that has never been as clear as it has become today. The government of Australia, after days of tussling with the social media company, has finally succumbed, and agreed to make amendments to a law that forces Facebook and Google to pay media companies to display their content on their platforms.
William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia, said that the restrictions on news sharing on Facebook’s Australian platform should be lifted “in the coming days,” adding that the company is “satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns.”
This comes after Facebook stopped showing content from news pages on its platform last week, the most flagrant display of the grandiose power that tech giants like Facebook and Google hold. Moreover, the company also “accidentally” (according to the company) disabled a wide range of pages pertaining to health advices about coronavirus, warnings from the weather bureau and even the site of a children’s hospital.
This invited criticism and scrutiny from the Australian government, which noted that Australia will not back down in the face of pressure.
Australia’s communications minister Paul Fletcher had stated that the government would not back down on its legislative agenda. “This announcement from Facebook, if they were to maintain this position, of course, would call into question the credibility of the platform in terms of the news on it,” Fletcher said. “Effectively, Facebook is saying to Australians information that you see on our platforms does not come from organizations that have editorial policies or fact-checking processes or journalists who are paid to do the work they do.”
However, it seems like the tide has shifted, as Facebook announces that it will start displaying news content in Australia once again, after a decision was reached with the government. This, although quite surprising, is not out of the blue, as the government was facing enormous pressure after Facebook’s decision. One out of Five Australians depends on Facebook for news, and thus, the population was paying a heavy toll due to the fight between the two parties.
It must be noted that the law has not been completely rolled back. Instead, amends have been made, according to suggestions of Google and Facebook, that would suit the interests of both the government and the aforementioned companies.
The government has agreed to take the commercial deals made by Google and Facebook into account, and then decide if the law applies to them or not. Moreover, it will also serve them a one month notice in advance.
The most important of these concessions is the fact that these companies will now be given more time to reach licensing deals before being forced into final arbitration.
According to Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the fight in Australia was a proxy battle for the world, and the decision will reverberate in other countries as well.