Home » Meta says Facebook cannot solve media industry’s ‘issues’ as it defends ending payments for news in Australia

Meta says Facebook cannot solve media industry’s ‘issues’ as it defends ending payments for news in Australia

Meta has doubled down on its decision to end payments to news companies in Australia saying global tech companies cannot solve issues facing the news industry.

Nearly two weeks ago the parent company of Facebook and Instagram announced it would not enter into new deals with Australian media companies to pay for news, as the three-year contracts struck to avoid being regulated under the news media bargaining code begin to expire.

The announcement prompted a strong response from the Albanese Labor government, with the assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, and the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, stating in an opinion piece this week that it was a “fundamental dereliction of [Meta’s] responsibility to its Australian users” to walk away from the deals.

The government is now working through plans to designate Meta under the news media bargaining code, and require the company to negotiate for payments or risk fines of 10% of its Australian revenue.

“The code recognises that these digital platforms have immense market power, and seeks to correct the imbalance in bargaining power to incentivise fair commercial outcomes for Australian publishers – and in turn, the communities they serve,” the ministers said.

The move by Meta had been described as a “war” with the media in The Australian newspaper and the Australian Financial Review, with the former labelling the Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, a “tech tyrant”.

But in a blog post on Thursday, Meta repeated its opposition to the code, stating that “global tech companies cannot solve the long standing issues facing the news industry”, and sought to refute some of the claims about how news is consumed on the platform.

Meta said that people’s feeds on Facebook are personalised to their interests and people who are interested in news will likely see more news content. But it repeated the claim that just 3% of content shown in feeds is news-related.

The company said news was “highly substitutable” and when there was less or no news on Facebook, people continue to use the site. Meta pointed to the recent news ban on Facebook in Canada to demonstrate it had not had an impact on the site.

“People still come to Facebook even without news on the platform. Just as the number of people around the world using our technologies continues to grow, the number of daily and monthly active users on Facebook in Canada has increased since ending news availability,” the company said.

One expert who Guardian Australia spoke to said when news was gone it had been replaced by viral, click bait-type content with misleading information.

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While the company argued news did not make up much content on the platform, Meta said that in 2023, it sent 2.3bn “free clicks” to Australian news publishers, driving what Meta estimated was A$115m worth of value.

Meta also argued the decision not to renew the payment deals did not mean news content would be replaced by “misinformation or harmful content” given that news publishers can still post on Facebook and Instagram.

The company did not respond to a question on whether it would rule out a Canada-style ban on news should the Australian government designate Meta under the news media bargaining code.

Meta said it would continue to engage with the government on the matter.

Google has recommitted to new deals with news outlets as the current agreements expire, and has commenced talks to renegotiate the agreements closest to expiring. Microsoft also confirmed it is supportive of the code and supporting public interest journalism.

The federal government has also approached TikTok over payment for news under the code in recent months, at the same time as it is rejecting calls to ban the app in Australia.