CANBERRA (Reuters) – Facebook Inc 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 abrupt decision to stop Australians from sharing news on the site and strip the pages of domestic and foreign news outlets also erased several state government and emergency department accounts, causing widespread anger.

The company has “tentatively friended us again,” Morrison told a news conference in Sydney. “What I’m pleased about it that Facebook is back at the table again.”

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

Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Friday he had spoken with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and further talks were expected over the weekend. It was not clear whether those talks have happened.

A Facebook spokeswoman and representatives for Frydenberg did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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

The Australian law, which would force Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to reach commercial deals with Australian publishers or face compulsory arbitration, has cleared the lower house of parliament and is expected to be passed by the Senate within the next week.

Simon Milner, Facebook’s Asia-Pacific policy director of policy for the Asia-Pacific region, was quoted on Saturday as telling the Sydney Morning Herald the company had three main objections to the legislation.

Facebook objects to being barred from discriminating between different news outlets that ask for money, to arbitration models that allow an independent body to select one payment over another, and to the obligation to enter commercial negotiations with Australian media companies, Milner said. Read More

By Ian Dei

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