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Facebook 'refriends' Australia, reversing news ban in 'days'

image of facebook on phone
Facebook is reversing its ban on Australian news. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images) (Brendon Thorne via Getty Images)

Facebook will scrap its ban on Australian news and publishers within “days”, in a shock announcement made less than a week after it first pulled news content from Aussies’ feeds.

The social media giant wiped Australian news from users’ feeds early last Thursday morning amid a worsening stoush between the Government, tech giants and publishers.

However, it wasn’t just news publishers caught up in the sweeping ban; the Facebook profiles of unions, governments, health departments, emergency services and weather bureaus also had their pages emptied.

Users around the world were also unable to share or view Australian news articles.


The ban reversal means that news publishers will be able to share articles to Facebook again.

"Facebook has refriended Australia, and Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform," said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday afternoon.

He described the ban as "regrettable" and said the ban reversal came followed "intensive negotiation" with the tech juggernaut, thanking Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg personally for "the constructive nature of the discussions".

"These are important issues because the purpose of the code and the purpose of the Morrison government's intentions have been designed to sustain public interest journalism in this country," he said.

The Federal Government has been told by Facebook that it will restore Australian news publishers' pages "in the coming days".

Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton said in a statement that Facebook had “constructive discussions” with Frydenberg and Fletcher over the last week.

“We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers.

“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,” Easton said.

“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.”

The ban reversal comes as Facebook negotiates with the Federal Government over the Media Bargaining code, which aims to push tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay publishers for news content.

A number of amendments have been made to the code following the negotiations, including support for regional and small publishers in securing deals with digital platforms.

Facebook's initial "anti-news algorithm" was described by an industry analyst as "hyper-aggressive" and damaging to small businesses.

“Unfortunately, a lot of small business is getting caught in the crossfire, which can have some significant ramifications,” he said.

At the time, Fletcher said the ban was "unlikely to be in the long-term interest of [Facebook's] brand" and would have significant community impacts.

"The fact that there are organisations like health departments, fire and emergency services and so on who have had their Facebook pages blocked – that's a public safety issue," he said last Thursday.

"There is great responsibility that comes with being a platform that ... has over 17 million Australians visit it every month."

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