Facebook says it doesn’t need news content

Finbar O’Mallon
(Australian Associated Press)


Facebook says it wouldn’t be significantly impacted if Australian news outlets pulled content from social media.

The tech giant said it and Google were being unfairly targeted by proposed new regulations to force them to pay for news content on their platforms.

In its submission to the competition watchdog’s draft code, Facebook dismissed concerns it shared an unequal market dominance with Google.

“We recognise that there is merit in setting regulatory frameworks to give all Australian media organisations and Australian consumers confidence that we are contributing appropriately in the Australian news ecosystem,” it said.

Facebook said changes to its newsfeed algorithms to prioritise content shared by family and friends had seen a drop in people engaging with news.

Despite the changes, it kept making money as more people engaged with its service which suggested news didn’t present any value to Facebook.

“News content is highly substitutable and most users do not come to Facebook with the intention of viewing news,” it said.

“If there were no news content available on Facebook in Australia, we are confident the impact on Facebook’s community metrics and revenues in Australia would not be significant.”

Facebook said while it competed with news outlets for advertising dollars, outlets had received nearly $200 million worth of advertising through Facebook in the first half of 2020 by posting their content on the platform.

Relying on private companies to prop up Australia’s media industry was unhealthy and being forced to subsidise a competitor would see advertising prices rise, Facebook said.

Instead, Facebook has proposed requiring more transparency around how digital platforms rank content online, as well as the establishment of an Australian Digital News Council to hear complaints from media companies.

Facebook and Google dominate the digital advertising market, benefiting greatly from the content of news publishers on their platforms.

For every $100 of online advertising excluding classifieds, $47 goes to Google, $24 to Facebook and $29 to other players.


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