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Facebook to Remove News Tab in UK, France and Germany

Meta is not banning news from the platform and will honor existing publisher agreements.

Meta announced they are deprecating Facebook News, a dedicated tab in Facebook, in the UK, France and Germany in early December. The company said that people in those countries will be able to read news on Facebook, and it will not impact other Meta products and services.

Meta will honor all their existing obligations to news publishers in the UK, France and Germany until they expire, and news publishers will still have access to their Facebook accounts and pages, so they can continue to post links to news articles and other content. Publishers can also use Facebook Reels and ads to reach their target audiences and drive them to their own websites. Meta will not, however, entertain new deals with publishers, and they don’t anticipate adding any new products specifically for publishers going forward. Instead, they intend to use company resources on products that drive engagement.

For now, it is only the Facebook News tab that will go away.

“This is part of an ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most. 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,” Meta said in a September 5, 2023 post to their newsroom.

In addition, Meta said they know people don’t come to Facebook for news and political content. In fact, news is less than 3% of what people see in their Facebook feed, so “news discovery is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people.”

Not Meta’s first news rodeo

In August 2022, Meta announced that Facebook would stop paying publishers for news for Facebook Bulletin, a subscription-based newsletter platform Facebook launched in June 2021 as an alternative to Substack. The discontinuance of this news support cost publications like the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Washington Post tens of millions of dollars.

Campbell Brown, vice president of media partnerships, told staff that resources were being reallocated.

“For a lot of us – this was a labor of love and I know it’s hard to see these products put on the backburner. These are products that have delivered tremendous value for our partners and our users,” Campbell said. “We remain committed to the success of creators, and are doing even more to ensure they can find audiences on Facebook and grow engaged communities there.”

In addition to this reinvestment, Meta has tangled with the Australian and Canadian governments over whether or not Meta should pay publishers for news. Australia and Canada argue that companies like Meta and Google benefit from publishing news on their platforms, so the publishers who produce that content should be compensated. Meta was able to negotiate directly with publishers in Australia, satisfying Meta enough to allow news to be published on Facebook and Instagram in Australia. The same is not true in Canada where the Online News Act, which goes into effect January 1, 2024, has created an impasse between Meta and the Canadian government. Meta has withdrawn news from Facebook in Canada. With a payment of $60 million, Meta could take advantage of an exemption in the draft regulation, but Meta rejected the offer. While the US and California are working on their own journalism preservation acts, Meta has taken a similar stance.

Insider Take

“Deprecate” was an odd term to use to announce their discontinuance of the Facebook News tab. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first two definitions of “deprecate” are (1) to express disapproval of, and (2) play down, make little of. The third definition seems to fit – to withdraw official support for or discourage the use of (something, such as a software product) in favor of a newer or better alternative. Based on Meta’s recent tangles with regulatory agencies, news organizations and news industry supporters, it seems that Meta is actually expressing disapproval or belittling the value of news on their platform.

Based on new investments and Meta’s past behavior, the removal of the Facebook News tab feels like a foreshadowing of what’s to come. Is Meta expecting a battle with regulators in the UK and European Union similar to Canada? Are they laying the groundwork by declaring news isn’t that important to them? It feels like there is more to the story.

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