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Facebook news ban wake-up name: Treasurer

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says Facebook’s ban on Australian news and information should be a wake-up call for the rest of the world.

The social network temporarily banned Australian users from viewing news on its platform in protest against a proposed media bargaining code.

The world-first code will force online giants including Facebook and Google to pay for displaying news content.

Facebook has since agreed to reverse the Australian news ban after securing last-minute amendments.

The code will no longer automatically apply and digital platforms will be given more time to negotiate payment with media organisations.

Facebook has warned it could pull news from Australia again if the government later decides to apply the code to the network.

Mr Frydenberg said negotiations with the social media giant were always bound to be complex and difficult.

“We saw the market power of digital giants like Facebook when they pretty much blacked-out the Australian news media business from their platform just last week,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“I think that was a wake-up call for the whole world, really.”

Facebook has signed an in-principle agreement with Seven West Media after the government agreed to change its landmark bargaining code.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher expects other media companies will follow suit.

“We await any further announcements that they may choose to make,” he told the ABC.

Labor has backed the amendments to the media bargaining code, assuring its passage through parliament.

But the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance is concerned about the final product.

The journalists’ union fears small publishers could be shut out of commercial deals with Facebook and Google, if the internet giants skirt around the code by signing deals with big media companies.

“We now face the strange possibility that the code could be passed by parliament and it applies to precisely no one,” MEAA federal president Marcus Strom said.

“It will just sit in the treasurer’s draw as a threat to misbehaving digital companies.”

Google has announced a series of deals with major publishers in recent weeks, including News Corp, Nine Entertainment, Guardian Australia and Seven West Media.

As Facebook eyes the major media players, Mr Fletcher is hopeful the network will also consider smaller regional outlets.

“The news media bargaining code includes a mechanism for the digital platforms to make a default offer to smaller and regional players,” he said.

“It is important that small and regional players are supported through the news media bargaining code and we’ve made that clear.”

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