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UPDATE 1-Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears

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Colin Packham
·2 min read
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* Landmark Google, Facebook legislation nears final vote

* Australia rules out amendments

* Talks between tech giants and Australia yield no results(Updates to show senate begins debate on legislation, adds TVand PIX to slug)

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Australia will not alterlegislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc'sGoogle pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmakersaid on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether topass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off overthe legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.

Other countries including Canada and Britain have alreadyexpressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked allnews content and several state government and emergencydepartment accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry,which has already seen its business model upended by the titansof the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekendyielded no breakthrough.

As Australia's senate began debating the legislation, thecountry's most senior lawmaker in the upper house said therewould be no further amendments.

"The bill as it stands ... meets the right balance," SimonBirmingham, Australia's Minister for Finance, told AustralianBroadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures "Australian-generatednews content by Australian-generated news organisations can andshould be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way".

The laws would give the government the right to appoint anarbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiationsfail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against thelaws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets,including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

"There's no reason Facebook can't do and achieve what Googlealready has," Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday onthe legislation, which passed the lower house last week and hasmajority support in the Senate.

A final vote after the so-called third reading of the billis expected on Tuesday.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google andother online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile saidon Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-widecode of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying andstopping unidentified accounts, or "bots", disseminatingcontent; informing users of the origins of content; andpublishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by SamHolmes and Hugh Lawson)