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Australian won't change planned content laws despite Facebook block - lawmaker

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SYDNEY, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Australia will not changeproposed laws that would make Alphabet Inc's Googleand Facebook pay news outlets for content, a seniorlawmaker said on Monday, despite vocal opposition from the BigTech firms.

Facebook has strongly protested the laws and last weekabruptly blocked all news content and several state governmentand emergency department accounts. The social media giant andAustralian leaders continued discussing the changes over theweekend.

But with the bill scheduled for a debate in the Senate onMonday, Australia's most senior lawmaker in the upper house saidthere would 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.

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, the companies commit toidentifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or "bots",disseminating content, informing users of the origins ofcontent, and publishing an annual transparency report, amongother measures.(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by SamHolmes)