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Ordered to pay for news content in Australia, Facebook instead bans posts

Australians will soon no longer be able to access news on Facebook.

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The social media giant’s decree is in response to a spat with Australian lawmakers. Source: Breakfast

The social media giant says it will restrict publishers and users from sharing or viewing content by local or international organisations.

It’s in response to a new law that would see Facebook pay media companies for displaying news content on the platform.

Facebook says international news organisations, including 1 NEWS and others in New Zealand, will still be able to post content. But the posts will no longer be viewable in Australia. 

The 1 NEWS Facebook page has 989,600 followers. Nearly 76,000 of them are in Australia.

Meanwhile, Google is taking a very different tact — rushing to negotiate generous deals with big and small Australian media companies.

News Corp says it would receive “significant payments” from Google in the three-year agreement, which includes heavyweight news organisations throughout the English-speaking world, such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the US, the Times and the Sun in the UK, and the Australian and Sky News in Australia.

The deal spans audio and video and News Corp will also get an ad revenue share from Google.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson thanked Australian officials in a statement, saying they “have stood firm for their country and for journalism”.

Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed earlier that state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation is also in negotiations and plans to spend any Google revenue on regional journalism.

“There are negotiations going on with all the major players and the minor players at the moment,” Frydenberg says.

“This will help sustain public interest journalism in this country for years to come.”

Frydenberg says “none of these deals would be happening” if not for proposed legislation to create a so-called News Media Bargaining Code.

Lawmakers were debating amended legislation to create the code in the House of Representatives today.

The code would create an arbitration panel to set a binding price for news in cases where Google and Facebook fail to reach deals with media companies whose original journalism they link to.

“Everything that I have heard from parties, both in the news media business and in terms of digital platforms, is that these are generous deals,” Frydenberg says.

“These are fair deals. These are good deals. These are good deals for the Australian media businesses,” he added.

Google and Facebook, which take a combined 81 per cent of online advertising in Australia, have condemned the code as unworkable.

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Australia's world-leading push to get Google, Facebook to pay for news edges closer

The Australian deals with Google are being negotiated under Google’s own model, News Showcase. The company has reached pay deals with more than 450 publications globally since it launched News Showcase in October.

Facebook has a comparable product called Facebook News, but it's not available in Australia.

Some media analysts are surprised that Australian media companies would strike News Showcase deals when they stand to make more money from compulsory arbitration under the government’s code.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.