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Meta angers Australia with plan to stop paying its news publishers for content – March 01, 2024 at 3:17 am

Meta angers Australia with plan to stop paying its news publishers for content – March 01, 2024 at 3:17 am

Meta Platforms has announced that it will no longer pay Australian news publishers for content that appears on Facebook. It starts a new row with Canberra, which leads the world with legislation forcing internet giants to sign licensing deals.

News publishers and governments like Australia have argued that big tech companies like Facebook and Google benefit unfairly from links to news articles that appear on their sites. Meta says that news links make up only a fraction of users' feeds, and that publishers can still post news content on their own pages on Facebook.

Meta said on its website that it will not set up a tab on Facebook to promote news in Australia and the US, as it did in Britain, France and Germany last year.

As a result, “we will not enter into new commercial agreements for traditional news content in these countries or offer new Facebook products specifically to news publishers,” it said in a statement.

The Australian government quickly responded, saying it would consult with Treasury and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on next steps.

“Meta's decision to stop paying for news content in a number of countries reflects a disregard for its commitment to the sustainability of Australia's news media,” Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Deputy Treasurer Stephen Jones said in a joint statement.

The decision will eliminate a key source of revenue for Australia's biggest media outlets, from News Corp to Australian Broadcasting Corp, which benefited from the 2021 law, which forced Meta and Alphabet's Google into licensing deals.

Meta protested the law, leading to a brief message blackout on Facebook in Australia in 2021. A similar law was passed in Canada in 2023, leading to a news blackout that is still in place.

Under Australian law, the country's government must now decide whether to appoint its own intermediary to set Meta's fees as part of the new round of deals. The company's contracts with Australian media typically run for three years, expiring in 2024.

Google's media license agreements typically last five years and expire in 2026. The company has already started negotiations to extend the contracts, the spokesperson said.

About 22 million of Australia's 26 million people are Facebook users.