After threatening to make news outlets pay to share their content on their social media platform, Facebook has changed its tune.
After threatening to make news outlets pay to share their content on their social media platform, Facebook has changed its tune.

Facebook walks back news threat

Facebook has stepped back from its threat to stop Australians sharing news on the social media platform as the Morrison government pushes ahead with laws forcing tech giants to pay for news content.

The news bargaining code, hailed by Josh Frydenberg as a world-first, will be legislated next year after concessions were made to placate Facebook and Google, the companies required to pay fees to news outlets.

YouTube and Instagram have been excluded while rules requiring the platforms to share information about their ranking algorithms with news companies have been pared back.

But Facebook and Google will have to submit to an arbitration process if they do not strike deals with outlets, including the ABC and SBS, to pay for their content.

The Treasurer said he was hopeful agreements would be reached soon to level the "unequal bargaining position" news outlets had found themselves in as Facebook and Google monopolised the online advertising market.

"This is a huge reform, this is a world first, and the world is watching what happens here in Australia," he said.

Mr Frydenberg said it was a "fair and balanced outcome" after constructive consultation with the tech giants.

Facebook Australia boss Will Easton, who had earlier threatened to stop publishers sharing news on the platform, said the company would review the laws "with the goal of landing on a workable framework to support Australia's news ecosystem".

News Corp Australasia, the publisher of the Herald Sun, welcomed the legislation as a "significant step forward in the decade-long campaign to achieve fairness in the relationship between Australian news media companies and the global tech giants".

"All we have ever sought is a fair commercial outcome and fair payment for the valuable news content our journalists create. I believe this code puts in place the framework for this to be achieved," executive chairman Michael Miller said.

"As a result of their lobbying, the tech platforms have won concessions, and there should be nothing stopping them now from reaching fair commercial agreements."

Opposition treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers said Labor backed the laws "in principle" to support quality journalism, although he criticised the government for the delay in introducing its plan, which was due to be locked in by the end of the year.

Originally published as Facebook walks back news threat