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Facebook has 'tentatively friended' us again, Australia says

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Colin Packham
·2 min read
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By Colin Packham

CANBERRA, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Facebook Inc is back atthe negotiating table, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrisonsaid on Saturday after the tech giant this week blocked news onits site in the country.

Facebook's abrupt decision to stop Australians from sharingnews on the site and strip the pages of domestic and foreignnews outlets also erased several state government and emergencydepartment accounts, causing widespread anger.

The company has "tentatively friended us again," Morrisontold a news conference in Sydney. "What I'm pleased about itthat Facebook is back at the table again."

Facebook has publicly indicated no change in its oppositionto a proposed law requiring social media platforms to pay forlinks to news content. Morrison was not asked about that.

Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Friday he hadspoken with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and further talks wereexpected over the weekend. It was not clear whether those talkshave happened.

Representatives for Frydenberg did not immediately respondto requests for comment.

The stand-off comes as Australia's vows to press ahead withthe landmark legislation, which could set a global precedent ascountries like Canada express interest in taking similar action.

The Australian law, which would force Facebook and AlphabetInc's Google to reach commercial deals with Australianpublishers or face compulsory arbitration, has cleared the lowerhouse of parliament and is expected to be passed by the Senatewithin the next week.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said onThursday his country would adopt the Australian approach as itcrafts its own legislation in coming months.

Google, which has initially threatened to close its searchengine in Australia, has announced host of preemptive licensingdeals over the past week, including a global agreement with NewsCorp.

Facebook's move had an immediate impact on traffic toAustralian new sites, according to early data from NewYork-based analytics firm Chartbeat.

Total traffic to the Australian news sites from variousplatforms fell from the day before the ban by around 13% withinthe country.(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by William Mallard)