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News publishers have hit out at Meta after the tech giant decided to axe Facebook News in Europe and end a scheme to fund local journalism in the UK.
On Tuesday, Meta said that it would “deprecate” the dedicated tab on Facebook that showcases news stories in early December in the UK, France and Germany.
The group said that this was part of an “ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most”.
Meta said that publishers will continue to have access to their Facebook accounts and pages, where they can post their news article links and content, and it would “honour our obligations under all existing Facebook News agreements with news publishers in the UK, France and Germany until they expire”.
The group said that the News tab makes up less than 3 per cent of what people around the world see in their Facebook feed, “so news discovery is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people”.
However, newspaper executives warned the decision will deprive a valuable source of income and traffic for media groups. Meta has already axed Instant Articles, the mobile-friendly format that quickly loaded news articles on the Facebook app.
In July, Reach, the UK’s largest commercial news publisher with titles such as the Mirror and Express, blamed this move on a drop in digital revenue in the first half of the year.
Meta will separately not renew funding for the Community News Project (CNP), which was announced in 2018 to support journalism in underserved communities. Meta has contributed $17mn to the CNP over the past five years, according to training body the NCTJ.
Henry Faure Walker, chief executive of Newsquest Media Group, one of the largest regional news publishers in the UK and owned by US media giant Gannett, said that it was “pretty cynical behaviour from Meta — it takes billions of pounds annually from the UK advertising market [and] built its platform in part by free riding the quality content that news publishers provide”.
Newsquest hired about 20 reporters through the CNP scheme, he added. “It’s disappointing that Meta is retreating back to their tower, leaving brilliant community journalists out in the cold.”
A Reach spokesperson said: “While unsurprising, today’s news clearly has broader implications about Meta’s commitment to providing a safe space for reliable and trusted information, which should be a serious concern for the industry and society at large.”
Owen Meredith, chief executive of the News Media Association, which represents newspapers in the UK, said that the decision “comes as little surprise, considering the news blackouts we have seen Meta enforcing in Canada and Australia”.
Meta said it would drop news from feeds in Canada in the face of legislation mandating platforms to pay publishers and broadcasters for content. Meta also briefly pulled news from Facebook in Australia in 2021 after a similar dispute over compensation for publishers for their content.
He added: “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.”
Meta said: “We have learned from the data that news and links to news content are not the reason the vast majority of people come to Facebook, and as a business we can’t over invest in areas that don’t align most with user preferences.”