After temporarily disabling Australian news organisations’ ability to share news links in February, Facebook announced on Monday that it had reached a licensing agreement with the news giant News Corp.
In a statement, News Corp Australia said that the three-year deal would allow the media conglomerate’s properties — including the national newspaper The Australian, the news site news.com.au, and major metropolitan papers including The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and The Courier-Mail — to share news links on the platform in the country.
“[News Corp] has reached a multi-year agreement to provide access to trusted news and information to millions of Facebook users in Australia through its Facebook News product,” the company said.
In February, as Australia’s government had sought to implement a new rule that would force big tech companies to negotiate with news outlets and pay for news content, Facebook had preemptively blocked any content that could be reasonably defined as “news” from being shared on the platform. Facebook had, at the time, criticised the proposed rules as an attempt, “to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for.”
As the social media giant attempted to cull news outlets from its platform, government pages, charity groups and nonprofit organisations were also swept up in its dragnet and summarily banned. In a statement provided to Gizmodo at the time, Facebook had insisted that the pages hadn’t been blocked accidentally, but had been censored as part of a broad interpretation of the new rules:
“As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted. However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted,” a spokesperson said at the time.
The whole move was, essentially, a stunt designed to force concessions from the Australian government, and it mostly seems to have worked: The agreement with News Corp ultimately negates a forced arbitration clause in the proposed bill, which would have forced the platform to “pay potentially unlimited amounts of money to multi-national media conglomerates under [a system] that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s global policy chief, argued in a blog post.
In lieu of cooperating with Australia’s proposed bargaining law, Facebook’s global operation has pledged to contribute $US1 ($1.3) billion to news industry deals over the next three years in an effort to foster continued partnerships with media companies.