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Facebook pledges to invest $1 billion in Australian news industry

After a week-long standoff with the Australian government, Facebook on Tuesday (February 23) restored feeds and blocked news pages.

Representational Image (Picture courtesy: Pixabay)

The Social media giant Facebook, days after scrubbing its feed completely in Australia, has announced that the company plans to invest at least $ 1 billion into the Australian news industry. The news was shared by Nick Clegg, VP of Facebook’s Global Affairs department, through his blog on Wednesday (February 24). In his blog, he said, “Facebook is more than willing to partner with news publishers. We absolutely recognize quality journalism is at the heart of how open societies function — informing and empowering citizens and holding the powerful to account. That’s why we’ve invested $600 million since 2018 to support the news industry, and plan at least $1 billion more over the next three years.”

After a week-long standoff with the Australian government, Facebook on Tuesday (February 23) restored feeds and blocked news pages. Facebook on February 18 had announced major changes in its policy which stopped and blocked Australians to share or even view news content on its site. The changes were announced after the Australian Government proposed new Media Bargaining law, which when passed will require Facebook and Google to pay local publishers for content published on the social media platform.

Shortly after, reacting sharply to the Facebook policy change, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated that it calls for curbing Facebook’s influence in the country.

After the policy change announcement, Facebook had suspended pages of health departments, governments, fire services, even the page of the Bureau of Meteorology was also wiped. In a post on Facebook on February 18, Morrison vowed that his government would not be ‘intimidated’ by the move.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” he said. “These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them,” added Morrison.

“We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code,” he said.

Another Technology giant Google had pledged a similar amount in October 2020. In a blog post, CEO of Google and Alphabet Sundar Pichai had announced that the company will invest $ 1 Billion to support news publishers. This was additional to Google News Initiative’s $300 million commitment, including emergency funding for local publishers globally to help with the impact of COVID-19 and Digital Growth Program aimed at small and medium-sized publishers to accelerate their business growth.

“I’m proud to announce Google is building on our long-term support with an initial $1 billion investment in partnerships with news publishers and the future of news,” Pichai said in his blog dated October 1, 2020.

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