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Australia says blocking Facebook will not push us to change its content laws

On Monday, a senior lawmaker said Australia will not change proposed laws that would make Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook pay for content, despite vocal opposition from major tech companies.

Facebook strongly protested the laws and last week surprisingly blocked all news content and many state government and emergency department accounts. The social media giant and Australian leaders continued to discuss the changes over the weekend.

But with the bill due to be debated in the Senate on Monday, the top Australian lawmaker in the Senate has said there will be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In its current form, the bill guarantees “Australian news content created by Australian news organizations can and should be paid for and to do so 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 Google and Facebook campaigned against the laws, last week Google signed deals with major Australian commercial outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There is no reason why Facebook cannot achieve what Google already has,” added Birmingham.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation passed by the House of Representatives last week and has majority support in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the Digi lobby group, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms such as Twitter Inc, said on Monday that its members have agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to curb the spread of disinformation online.

Under the voluntary law, companies are obligated to identify and stop unidentified accounts, or “bots,” publishing content, inform users of content assets, and publish an annual transparency report, among other measures.

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