Meta faces backlash from Australia over news payments

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has sparked outrage from the Australian government and media industry after announcing that it will stop paying local news publishers for their content. The decision, which was revealed in a blog post on Friday, has reignited the debate over the role and responsibility of online platforms in supporting journalism and democracy. The Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has condemned Meta’s move as “unfair” and “not the Australian way”, and has vowed to take action under the News Media Bargaining Code, a law that was passed last year to force tech giants to pay for news content.

Meta’s decision to end news deals

Meta said that it will not renew its commercial deals with Australian news publishers, which were signed last year after a tense standoff with the government over the News Media Bargaining Code. The code, which was the first of its kind in the world, allows the government to designate online platforms as “digital platform corporations” and compel them to negotiate with news media businesses over the value of their content. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, an independent arbitrator can decide the payment amount.

Meta said that it decided to end its news deals because of the low user engagement with its Facebook News tab, which was launched in Australia and the US last year. The company said that the number of people using Facebook News in these countries had dropped by 80% in the past year, and that it will discontinue the tab in April. Meta also said that it will not enter into new deals for traditional news content in these countries, and will not offer new Facebook products specifically for news publishers.


Meta said that it will continue to support news publishers in other ways, such as through its News Partnerships program, its Journalism Project, and its Community News Project. The company also said that it will continue to invest in products and services that drive user engagement, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.

Australia’s response to Meta’s move

The Australian government and media industry have reacted strongly to Meta’s move, accusing the company of undermining the News Media Bargaining Code and threatening the sustainability and diversity of journalism in the country. The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that he was “very concerned” about the impact of Meta’s decision, and that his government will “work through all available options under the code”. He also said that journalism is important and that the idea that one company can profit from others’ work is “simply intolerable”.

The Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said that she was “deeply disappointed” by Meta’s announcement, and that she has asked the Treasury Department and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to provide advice on the next steps. She also said that the government will consult with the news media businesses and other stakeholders to ensure that the code remains effective and fit for purpose.

The news media businesses and industry bodies have also expressed their anger and frustration at Meta’s decision, and have called for the government to take action against the company. Michael Miller, the executive chair of News Corp Australasia, said that Meta was using its “immense market power to refuse to negotiate” and that the decision will hurt the viability of small and regional media outlets in Australia. Hugh Marks, the chief executive of Nine Entertainment, said that Meta was “acting in bad faith” and that the decision will have a negative impact on the quality and diversity of news in Australia. Paul Murphy, the chief executive of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said that Meta was “showing contempt” for the code and for the public interest, and that the decision will undermine the public’s right to information.

Meta’s challenges in other markets

Meta’s decision to stop paying Australian news publishers comes amid the growing regulatory scrutiny and pressure on the company in other markets, especially in Europe. The European Union has recently introduced the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a new legislation that aims to ensure fair and open competition in the digital sector, and to prevent the abuse of market power by online platforms. The DMA designates large online platforms as “gatekeepers”, and imposes a set of obligations and prohibitions on them to protect the interests of consumers and businesses.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has considered naming Meta as a gatekeeper, as it is one of the largest and most influential online platforms in Europe, and has a significant impact on the digital market. However, the decision is still pending, and Meta has to file its notification for designation under the DMA soon. Meta has said that it believes that the main concerns raised by the Australian authority overlap with the DMA, and that it will continue to work closely with the regulators to maintain consistent rules.

Meta also faces legal and regulatory challenges in other countries, such as the UK, India, Indonesia, and Brazil, over its policies and practices on content moderation, data privacy, antitrust, and taxation. The company has said that it is committed to complying with the laws and regulations in the markets where it operates, and that it is open to dialogue and cooperation with the authorities and the stakeholders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *