The Journal Gazette
Saturday, February 20, 2021 1:00 am

Australia urges Facebook to lift news ban

ROD McGUIRK | Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia's prime minister on Friday urged Facebook to lift its ban on news access for Australian users and return to the negotiating table with media organizations, warning that other countries would follow his government's example in making digital giants pay for journalism.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described Facebook's move Thursday to prevent Australians from accessing and sharing news as a threat.

The blockade has escalated a fight with the government about whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organizations for content.

“The idea of shutting down the sorts of sites they did yesterday, as some sort of threat – well, I know how Australians react to that and I thought that was not a good move on their part,” Morrison told reporters.

“They should move quickly past that, come back to the table and we'll sort it out.” 

Australian news organizations could not post stories, and people who tried to share existing news stories got notifications saying they were blocked from doing so.

There was public outrage at how the Facebook blockade was bungled, cutting access – at least temporarily – to pandemic, public health and emergency services.

The blockade was a response to the passage of a bill by the Australian House of Representatives on Wednesday night that would make Facebook and Google pay Australian media companies fair compensation for the journalism to which the platforms link. The legislation must be approved by the Australian Senate to become law.

Google has responded by quickly working out licensing content deals with major Australian media companies under its own News Showcase model.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has announced a wide-ranging deal with Google covering operations in the United States and Britain, as well as Australia. 

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