Australia will not change the planned content laws despite the blocking of Facebook

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Australia will not change proposed laws that would force Alphabet’s Google and Facebook to pay for content news, a senior lawmaker said Monday, despite apparent opposition from major technology companies.

Facebook strongly protested against the laws last week as well suddenly blocked all news content and several government and emergency department accounts The social media giant and Australian leaders continued to discuss the changes over the weekend.

But with the bill scheduled for debate in the Senate on Monday, Australia’s top member of the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill in its current form … is in the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s finance minister, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill, in its current form, guarantees “Australian-generated news content from Australian-generated news organizations can and must be paid for in a fair and legitimate manner.”

The laws will give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licensing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook campaigned against the law, and last week Google struck deals with top Australian retailers, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment Monday on legislation passed by the lower house last week and backed by a majority in the Senate.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms such as Twitter, meanwhile, said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt a general industry code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the Voluntary Code, companies are committed to identifying and suspending unidentified accounts or “bots,” distributing content, informing users of the origin of content, and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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