Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Facebook is back at the negotiating table with his government to find a solution to their dispute.

Facebook is back at the negotiating table with the Australian government as the two attempt to resolve a dispute over the proposed Media Negotiation Code, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. The law, which is expected to be passed next week, would require social media platforms to pay for links on their sites to news content. Facebook opposes the law and blocked all links to news content for users in Australia last week.

Although it may seem counterintuitive for social media platforms to pay to link to news content, which generates web traffic, the idea makes sense. It is based on the fact that social media platforms benefit from users posting links to news content without doing anything to create the content themselves. By sharing some of those profits, they could help fund the struggling news industry. Facebook, however, maintains that the law “fundamentally misinterprets the relationship between our platform and the publishers who use it to share news content” and that the exchange of value of its relationship with publishers is already tilting in favor of the latter.

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While some agree with Facebook’s view on the issue, its decision to block links to news content for its Australian users was met with widespread disapproval. Not only does the site serve as a means for many to get important news, particularly at the time during the pandemic, but the ban was also awkwardly implemented, and the content of the pages of many non-news organizations also disappeared. Maybe it’s with the negative reaction in mind that Facebook has, like Morrison said, “He tentatively made us friends again.”

What is Facebook doing and will it unblock the news?

Facebook logo on the map of Australia

At a press conference, Morrison called Facebook’s actions indefensible but appreciated an apology he said he had provided and said the company had re-engaged with the government. He said the government wanted to solve the problem, but noted that its stance had not changed and there is no suggestion, publicly at least, that Facebook either.

However, international support for the idea, as Morrison refers, may force him to soften his position. Several countries, including Canada, are said to be interested in taking similar action, something Facebook may have underestimated. Given that the Australian government does not back down and Facebook receives little sympathy, it appears that it will have to strike trade deals with publishers as the law intends, although it can still shape those deals further in its favor, and possibly the law itself through of their renewed negotiations.

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Source: Reuters

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