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Meta to pull Facebook News tab in U.S., Australia this year

The move, coming in April, continues amid a demand from publishers that large technology firms pay for the privilege of distributing news content.

The move, coming in April, continues amid a demand from publishers that large technology firms pay for the privilege of distributing news content.

Facebook street front sign in Menlo Park, California.
(Photo by Minette Lontsie via Wikimedia Commons)

Facebook parent company Meta Platforms says its flagship social media platform will stop promoting news content this spring.

The move, which is schedule to take place in early April, will see Meta pull the dedicated Facebook News tab from its website and mobile apps for users in the United States and Australia. It comes about a year after Meta took a similar measure for versions of the Facebook website in the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Facebook said the decision was intended to better reflect the type of “products and services people value the most,” suggesting news content was low on that list.

“As a company, we have to focus our time and resources on things people tell us they want to see more of on the platform, including short form video,” the spokesperson said. “The number of people using Facebook News in Australia and the U.S. has dropped by over 80 percent last year.”

The drop in traffic is almost certainly due to algorithmic changes at Facebook, which showed less news content in a user’s feed amid calls from publishers demanding Facebook and other large technology firms pay for the privilege of sharing and capitalizing on their editorial content.

In some countries, lawmakers have voiced their support for new laws that would allow news publishers to negotiate rights fees with companies like Facebook and Google in exchange for the distribution of news content on their platforms. Such laws have been enacted in Canada and Australia, where publishers are allowed to demand payment for links to their content. (Solano Media, the parent company of The Desk, opposed a similar measure, being proposed in California last year.)

This week, Facebook said most of its users “don’t come to Facebook for news and political content — they come to connect with people and discover new opportunities, passions and interest.” The statement is somewhat supported by certain studies that reveal fewer Americans are turning to Facebook and other social media websites for news and information today compared to prior years.

Still, among Americans who do turn to social media websites for news, their preferred platform of choice is Facebook: Last year, a survey published by Pew Research Center found 30 percent of Americans who use social media for news prefer to find reliable information on Facebook. By comparison, 26 percent turn to YouTube for news and 16 percent turn to Instagram, which is co-owned with Facebook.

Additionally, 43 percent of Facebook users surveyed affirm they regularly get news and information on that platform, the Pew study found, though the number has fallen over the past four years amid efforts by Meta to deprioritize news content appearing in the feeds of its users.

Information about news consumption habits on Facebook are tougher to analyze for its overseas users, but Meta claims less than 3 percent of what its global users see on Facebook is considered news. For that reason, the company feels supporting pay-to-use agreements with news publishers in countries where existing or future law requires it is no longer justified.

The decision to pull the Facebook News tab in the United States and Australia will not automatically end existing agreements the company has with news publishers in those two countries, though Meta says it won’t forge future agreements with publishers and has already made them aware of the company’s intentions. In the United States, most of its news deals have already expired.

Meta said it remains committed to “connecting people to reliable information on our platforms” and will work with “third-party fact-checkers…who review and rate viral misinformation on our apps.” Since 2016, Meta and its predecessor companies have contributed more than $150 million to support fact-checking efforts around the world, a spokesperson said in a statement.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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