Not even a week after abruptly removing all Australian news (and plenty of Australian non-news) content from its website, Facebook has changed its mind, and will bring Australian content back to its platform.
The announcement came this evening via Australia’s treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, boldly proclaiming that Facebook had “re-friended” Australia.
It follows days of negotiation directly between the treasurer and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where both sides have made some concessions over a law which should never come to pass in the first place.
Facebook said in a statement this evening:
“[We] appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher over the past week,” it said.
“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.
“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”
Curiously, though, the move is not set in stone; should Facebook not get its way in future, it has reserved the right to remove Australian news content again.
It also doesn’t appear that Facebook has actually conceded anything that it wasn’t already doing, or willing to do.
According to Minister Frydenberg, Facebook will now engage (although it apparently already had anyway) in good faith negotiations with commercial players to reach agreements with them. Just this evening, it was announced that Facebook had reached an in principle agreement with Seven West Media, though the details would be finalised in coming months.
Amazing how it happened so quickly … unless you consider the reality that this in principle agreement has probably been in the works for weeks, far before Facebook cancelled Australian news.
Like Google, bringing its Google News Showcase service to Australia, Facebook wants to bring its Facebook News service to Australia too, but it is yet to sign any deals to actually do so.
In the interim, it has struck a deal with the Australian government to make a number of changes to the media bargaining code, including mandatory mediation before the arbitration clause comes into effect, advance notice before designating platforms (to give them the opportunity to avoid such a designation taking place), and that any such process must take account of any commercial arrangements already in place.
None of these amendments seems particularly exciting or interesting, especially as the core elements of the code continue – the full weight of the Australian government hanging like an axe over the necks of Facebook and Google should they not play (and pay) nicely and further line the pockets of Australia’s media owners more than they already are.
I think I might’ve preferred that Facebook kept news off its platform, but I’m not 100% sure where my thoughts lie on this yet.
What about you?