The compromise reached between the tech giants and Canberra means that Facebook and Google, the main targets of the law, are unlikely to be penalised.

A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed Australia's flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021.
A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed Australia's flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. (Reuters Archive)

Facebook has said it will lift a contentious ban on Australian news pages, after the government agreed to amend a world-first media law fiercely opposed by the tech giant.

The social media firm sparked global outrage last week by blacking out news for its Australian users and inadvertently blocking a series of non-news Facebook pages linked to everything from cancer charities to emergency response services.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, after a series of talks over the weekend, indicated a compromise had been reached on key aspects of a law that would force global tech companies to pay news companies for content that appears on their platforms.

Australia will offer four amendments, including to the mechanism for final offer arbitration, which a Facebook executive told local media was a sticking point for the company.

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," Facebook said in a statement posted online.

"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," said Will Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia.

READ MORE: Australia freezes Facebook ads amid new Covid-19 vaccine media blitz

The issue has been widely watched internationally as other countries including Canada and Britain considering similar legislation.

The compromise means that Facebook and Google – the main targets of the law – are unlikely to be penalised so long as they reach some deals with local media firms to pay for news.

The two companies had objected to legislation that made negotiations with media companies mandatory and gave an independent Australian arbiter the right to impose a settlement.

"We're pleased that we've been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we've had" said Easton.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims, the main architect of the law, was not immediately available for comment. At a speech earlier on Tuesday, Sims declined to answer questions about the standoff on the grounds that it was before parliament.

Despite earlier threats to pull its services from Australia over the legislation, Google had already softened its stance and brokered deals worth millions of dollars with a variety of media companies, including the two largest: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Nine Entertainment.

READ MORE: Australia to force Google and Facebook pay for news in unprecedented move

Source: AFP