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Australia says Facebook has “initially friendship” us again

This comes as Scott Morrison is now asking social media platforms to pay for news content links. (AP photo)

Canberra: Facebook is back at the negotiating table, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday after the tech giant this week blocked news on its site in the country.

Facebook’s sudden decision to block Australians from sharing news on the site and stripping the pages of domestic and foreign news outlets wiped out many state government and emergency department accounts, causing widespread outrage.

Morrison told a news conference in Sydney that the company had “entered into a temporary friendship again.” “I am glad that Facebook is back on the table again.”

Facebook has not publicly indicated any change in its opposition to a proposed law requiring social media platforms to pay for links to news content. Morrison was not asked about this.

Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Freidenberg said Friday that he had spoken with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and more talks are expected over the weekend. It was not clear if those talks took place.

Frydenberg’s representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The standoff comes as Australia pledges to push ahead with historic legislation, which could set a global precedent as countries like Canada express interest in taking similar measures.

The Australian law, which will force Facebook and Google Alphabet to do business with Australian publishers or face mandatory arbitration, has passed the House of Representatives in Parliament and the Senate is expected to pass it within the next week.

Canadian Heritage Minister Stephen Gilbault said Thursday that his country will adopt the Australian approach as it puts in place its own legislation in the coming months.

Google, which initially threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia, has announced a raft of preemptive licensing deals over the past week, including a global deal with News Corp.

Facebook’s move had an immediate impact on traffic to Australian news sites, according to preliminary data from New York-based analytics firm Chartbeat.

Total traffic to Australian news sites from various platforms is down from the day before the ban by about 13% within the country.

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