Facebook, which first announced to block access to news on its platform for Australian users and publishers and then rolled back its decision, has now revealed the “real story” behind what exactly happened.
The social networking site said that the assertions — repeated widely in recent days — that Facebook steals or takes original journalism for its own benefit always were and remain false.
Last week, Facebook announced it was stopping the sharing of news on its service in Australia.
“This has now been resolved following discussions with the Australian Government — we look forward to agreeing to new deals with publishers and enabling Australians to share news links once again,” said Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs at Facebook in a blog post late on Wednesday.
At the heart of the issue, in Facebook’s view, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Facebook and news publishers.
“It’s the publishers themselves who choose to share their stories on social media, or make them available to be shared by others, because they get value from doing so. That’s why they have buttons on their sites encouraging readers to share them,” Clegg argued.
“We neither take nor ask for the content for which we were being asked to pay a potentially exorbitant price. In fact, news links are a small part of the experience most users have on Facebook,” he asserted.
Facebook’s ban was in response to the new media bargaining code that will force tech platforms to pay Australian media companies for the content users share (and that platforms earn ad revenue from).
According to Clegg, Facebook would have been forced to pay potentially unlimited amounts of money to multi-national media conglomerates “under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook — without even so much as a guarantee that it is used to pay for journalism, let alone support smaller publishers”.
In order to comply, Facebook had two options: provide open ended subsidies to multi-national media conglomerates or remove news from our platform in Australia.
“Thankfully, after further discussion, the Australian government has agreed to changes that mean fair negotiations are encouraged without the looming threat of heavy-handed and unpredictable arbitration,” the company said.
Facebook admitted that the decision to block news “wasn’t a decision taken lightly”.
“In doing so, some content was blocked inadvertently. Much of this was, thankfully, reversed quickly”.
Clegg said that the internet needs new rules that work for everyone, not just for big media corporations.
“New rules only work if they benefit more people, not protect the interests of a few,” he added.