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Facebook confirms Aussie news product, denies bullying tactics

Business

Facebook plans to introduce a dedicated news product by the end of the year, as executives deny the company tried to intimidate the parliament during the media bargaining code negotiations.

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The government agreed to change the code after the tech giant banned Australian users from accessing news.

The social media giant’s vice president of policy for the Asia Pacific region Simon Milner faced questions at a Senate inquiry on Monday about the news ban.

Asked if it was a move to intimidate the parliament, Mr Milner said: “Absolutely not”.

A raft of other pages including emergency services were netted in the news ban.

“There were certainly errors in our enforcement for which we’re truly sorry,” Facebook’s director of policy in Australia Mia Garlick told the inquiry.

The company has not yet been designated under the code and is instead working to sign commercial deals with Australian news companies.

Garlick said there were deals or letters of intent with six news organisations – Seven, News Corp, Schwartz Media, Private Media, Solstice Media (publisher of InQueensland) and Sky News.

Facebook is talking with other companies in a bid to sign more deals but Mr Milner would not say how many they hoped to strike by the end of the year.

Garlick would not say how much the deals were worth.

“Historically we’ve paid tens of millions of dollars to publishers and these deals that we’re concluding at present are three-year deals,” she said.

Facebook is not looking at standard offers for smaller publishers.

The social media behemoth plans to introduce its Facebook News product – a separate feed only containing news – to Australian users by the end of the year.

One of the company’s main gripes over the media code, which would force it to pay for content from Australian news organisations, was that the value it added was not properly taken into account.

Garlick said Facebook users were referred to news websites 5.1 billion times last year, at an estimated value of $407 million.

 

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