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Meta angers Australia with plan to stop paying its news publishers for content

Meta angers Australia with plan to stop paying its news publishers for content

Friday, March 01, 2024, 11:32 GMT+7
Meta angers Australia with plan to stop paying its news publishers for content
The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Meta Platforms said it will stop paying Australian news publishers for their content that appears on Facebook, setting up a fresh battle with Canberra which had led the world with a law that forces internet giants to strike licencing deals.

News publishers and governments such as Australia have argued that big tech firms like Facebook and Google unfairly benefit when links to news articles appear on their platforms. Meta contends that links to news are just a fraction of users' feeds and publishers can still post news content to their own pages on Facebook.

Meta said on its website it would discontinue a tab on Facebook to promote news in Australia and the United States, as it did last year in the UK, France and Germany.

As a result, "we will not enter into new commercial deals for traditional news content in these countries and will not offer new Facebook products specifically for news publishers," it said in a statement.

The Australian government was quick to push back, saying it was seeking advice from the Treasury and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission on its next steps.

"Meta's decision to no longer pay for news content in a number of jurisdictions represents a dereliction of its commitment to the sustainability of Australian news media," Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said in a joint statement.

The decision is set to remove a key revenue source for Australia's biggest media outlets from News Corp to the Australian Broadcasting Corp which have benefited from the 2021 law that forced Meta and Alphabet's Google into licencing deals.

Meta had resisted the law, resulting in a brief news blackout on Facebook in Australia in 2021. A similar law passed in Canada in 2023 resulted in a news blackout there which is still in place.

Under Australia's law, the country's government must now decide whether to appoint its own mediator to set Meta's fees under a new round of deals. The company's deals with Australian media outlets mostly ran for three years, meaning they were set to expire in 2024.

Google's media licencing deals mostly ran for five years, expiring in 2026. A spokesperson said the company has already started negotiations for deal renewals.

Some 22 million of Australia's 26 million population are Facebook users.

Reuters

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