Facebook has returned news to Australian users after an eight day blackout and standoff with the federal government.
Last week, the social media giant stripped all news from its platform for more than 13 million users and inadvertently blocked information and government pages, including health and emergency services.
The historic banning of news came during escalating tensions over legislation that would force the tech giants to negotiate a fair payment with news publishers for using their content.
The government said an 11th-hour deal was reached between Facebook and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, and the platform agreed to restore news to Australian users just days before the bill passed through parliament.
Australian and international news content reappeared on Facebook around 1am AEDT Friday morning, and Australian news content was once again visible to international users.
The changes mean the government may not apply the code to Facebook if the company can demonstrate it has signed enough deals with media outlets to pay them for content. The government has also agreed that Facebook and other platforms, which would be subject to the code, would be given a month’s notice to comply.
Frydenberg told Sydney radio station 2GB this was a victory.
“It’s fair to say Google and Facebook didn’t want this code to come into existence, but today it has and, as a result, Australian news media businesses will get paid for content and journalism will be sustained in this country,” he said.
A deal between Facebook and Schwartz Media, the publishers of the Saturday Paper and the Monthly magazine, was announced on Friday as news returned to users’ feeds.
Solstice Media, which publishes the New Daily and City Mag, and Crikey publisher Private Media, have signed similar deals with the tech giant.
“These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” a spokesperson for Facebook said.
Rebecca Costello, CEO of Schwartz Media, said the deal would help promote a plurality of voices in Australian media.
“We have collaborated with Facebook in the past and we look forward to the ways in which this deal will help us to continue producing Australia’s leading independent journalism,” she said.
On Tuesday evening, Seven West Media, which owns the West Australian newspaper and the Seven TV network, became the first Australian media company to sign a letter of intent to provide news content to Facebook. Details and the value of the deal were not disclosed in the announcement.
It’s expected that more media companies will strike deals with Facebook in the coming weeks after a slate of similar agreements were reached with Google earlier in the month.
Frydenberg said Australia had been a “proxy battle” for the rest of the world on the regulation of Google and Facebook.
“I have no doubt that so many other countries are looking at what is happening here in Australia, because of this innovative code the Morrison government is now pursuing, so Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia, and that is why they have sought to get a code here that is workable,” he said.
Since Thursday last week, Australian news organisation Facebook pages have been wiped, with their feeds containing only a message saying there are “no posts yet”, and users that tried to post a news link receive a message saying their post could not go through.
This wall has now come down and it appears that the entire posting history of news pages has been restored.