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Facebook to Restore Australia News Pages as Deal Reached on Media Law

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Facebook said Tuesday it will lift a contentious ban on Australian news pages “in the coming days”, after the government agreed to amend a world-first media law fiercely opposed by the tech giant.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook indicated a compromise had been reached on key aspects of a law that would force digital giants to pay news companies for content.

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism, and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” said Will Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia.

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.

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.



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Brazil’s Capital Rio de Janeiro Returns to Covid-19 Lockdown

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Syria Govt Says it Has Covid-19 Vaccine; Doesn't Say from Where


Brazil’s capital has entered a two-week lockdown, joining several states in adopting measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as intensive care beds begin to fill in some important cities. At least eight Brazilian states adopted curfews over the past week due to the rise in cases and deaths from COVID-19. Thursday was Brazil’s deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic, with 1,541 deaths confirmed from the virus. So far 254,000 people have died overall.

Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha decreed the total closure of bars, restaurants, shopping malls and schools until March 15 and prohibited gatherings of people. Sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited after 8 p.m. In the federal district, 85 per cent of hospital beds were occupied on Sunday, according to the local health ministry.

President Jair Bolsonaro again criticised such measures, saying on his Twitter account: “The people want to work.”

He threatened on Friday to cut off federal emergency pandemic assistance to states resorting to lockdowns, saying, “Governors who close down their states will have to provide for their own emergency aid.”



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