Facebook parent Meta criticised as ‘cynical’ after dropping News tab in UK, France, Germany and ending UK community news project
A move by Facebook to end support for its community news project in the UK has been called “cynical”, as parent company Meta said it would also wind down a dedicated News tab in the UK, France and Germany through which it had paid news publishers for their content.
Facebook said the moves were part of an effort to “better align our investments to our products and services people value the most”.
The company said news made up less than 3 percent of what people around the world see in their Facebook feed, so that “news discovery is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people”.
Those findings have been disputed, however, with a Pew Research Center survey in 2021 finding that half of US adults found news through social media at least some of the time.
The move by Meta comes ahead of legislation in the UK that could force Facebook and other major internet platforms, such as Google, to share revenues with news publishers.
Under the Digital, Competition and Consumers Bill is currently making its way through the UK Parliament, Facebook could be designated as holding Strategic Market Status (SMS) and asked to financially contribute to content publishers in order to ensure fair competition, at rates to be determined by arbitration.
The EU already has a law called the Copyright Directive in place, under which Facebook and Google have inked content deals with a number of news publishers.
Shutting down the News tab is Facebook’s latest reset to its news content strategy. The service previously operated tools such as Trending Topics and Instant Articles, both of which were shut down after a few years.
Canada news ban
Meta said it would continue to honour existing contracts with news publishers for News tab content, but would not renew the deals.
The tab is to be phased out beginning in early December.
Meta said that for the time being users in Europe would continue to be allowed to share links to news content, unlike in Canada, where it controversially banned such links in protest against a new law that obliges it to share revenues with news publishers.
Facebook dropped its News tab in the US last year.
The service is also to end funding for the Community News Project, which places more than 100 reporters in under-served communities around the UK.
“This is a cynical move from a company that takes billions of pounds from the UK advertising market and built their Facebook platform in part by free riding the quality content that news publishers provide,” said Henry Faure Walker, chief executive of Newsquest, the UK’s second-largest publisher of local newspapers.
News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith said he was “extremely disappointed” by the closure of the news project and the News tab.
“Meta continues to exploit its dominant position, reaping the benefits of news content on their platforms without adequately compensating the publishers that invest in it,” he said.