Australian officials reprimand Meta after tech giant says it will stop paying for news


Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said Thursday that it plans to stop paying publishers of news content in Australia — a move that drew furious backlash from government officials in Canberra.

In a blog post, Meta said it would “not enter into new commercial deals for traditional news content” in Australia, France and Germany “and will not offer new Facebook products specifically for news publishers in the future.”

“While we’ll be deprecating Facebook News in these countries,” the tech giant added, “this announcement does not impact the terms under our existing Facebook News agreements with publishers” until they expire in those three countries.

Meta also said it plans to discontinue a tab on Facebook that promotes news content in Australia and in the United States, adding that it nixed the equivalent feature last year in the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The announcement was met with stern criticism from Australian government officials who argued that Meta threatened to starve news publishers of revenue. Australia has been among the most aggressive countries in pushing Meta to pay news outlets.

In a joint statement, Australian Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones decried Meta’s decision as “a dereliction of its commitment to the sustainability of Australian news media.”

“The Government has made its expectations clear,” Rowland and Jones added in part. “The decision removes a significant source of revenue for Australian news media businesses. Australian news publishers deserve fair compensation for the content they provide.”

Rowland and Jones said they would seek advice from Australia’s Treasury Department and the country’s competition watchdog agency on what to do next.

“The idea that one company can profit from others’ investment, not just investment in capital but investment in people, investment in journalism, is unfair,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters, according to Reuters. “That’s not the Australian way.”

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, one of Australia’s largest labor unions for journalists, posted on X: “Does @Meta care about journalism at all?”

Karen Percy, president of the union’s media unit, added: “This is an arrogant act by a company with too much power that thinks it is beyond the reach of any government.”

The owners of publishers around the world have long accused social media platforms of an unfair arrangement when it comes to news: Facebook, they contend, uses headlines to boost user engagement without necessarily driving traffic or ad revenue back to newsrooms.

Australian government officials attempted to change the status quo in 2021 with a landmark law, the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, requiring tech platforms to pay for the news content that appeared on their platforms.

In recent years, however, Meta has significantly scaled back the promotion of news and political content on its platforms, and the company cut funding for U.S. news publishers two years ago — a strategic shift that it addressed directly in its blog post this week.

“We know that people don’t come to Facebook for news and political content — they come to connect with people and discover news opportunities, passions and interests,” the company said, adding that, last year, news made up “less than 3%” of what Facebook users worldwide saw in their feeds.

U.S. newsrooms have recently struggled in part because referral traffic from social media behemoths like Facebook has dipped. The leaders of the Meta-owned social media services Instagram and Threads have explicitly said that news and politics content would not be recommended by their algorithms.


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