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Facebook will lift news ban for Australian users after striking payment deal

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By Euronews & AP
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 In this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.   -   Copyright  Andrew Harnik/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Australia’s government announced on Tuesday that Facebook has agreed to lift its ban on Australians sharing news after a deal was struck on legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed in statements that they had reached agreement on amendments to proposed legislation that would make the social network and Google pay for news that they feature.

In a statement on Facebook's corporate site, Campbell Brown, vice-president of global news partnerships, said: ”After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days."

"Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation. It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”

Facebook blocked Australian users from accessing and sharing news after the House of Representatives passed the draft law late Wednesday last week. The Senate will debate amended legislation on Tuesday.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

When Facebook first made the decision on February 17, Facebook argued that news made up less than 4% of the content that people see on the site, making the "business gain" to the social media giant "minimal."

By contrast, it argued, the site "generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million."

Facebook claimed that the law "seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for."