Meta to close down Facebook news tabs in US, Australia

Facebook parent company Meta has announced that the social media platform is ending its news tab, which provides users access to news stories, in the US and Australia.

The tech giant launched a tab dedicated to news in 2019 with millions of dollars in deals for publishers, but Facebook already announced last year that it was shutting down the tab in the UK, France, and Germany.

Now Meta is dropping the service in the US and Australia as well, after noting enough people weren’t visiting the platform to read news.

The tech giant said in a statement on Thursday that the audiences for the service dropped 80 per cent last year in the US and Australia, and that news content was only a small part of people’s Facebook experience, making up “less than 3 per cent” of what users saw on their feed.

Meta said the latest move would not affect its existing agreements with publishers until they expire.

“Facebook News, located in the News tab, is no longer available in The United Kingdom, France and Germany. Starting in early April, it will no longer be available in the United States and Australia,” a support page about the European shutdown noted.

When the news tab was launched in 2019, Facebook said it hoped for the work to aid in efforts to “sustain great journalism and strengthen democracy,” and that a survey “found that we were under-serving many topics people wanted most in their News Feeds, especially around categories like entertainment, health, business and sports.”

Now, the social media giant said it instead wants to focus its time and resources on “things people tell us they want to see more of on the platform, including short-form video.”

Meta’s move to no longer pay for news content in Australia is particularly important in the country where the feature was part of the social media giant’s response to the Media Bargaining Code, which requires tech companies to pay local publishers for the right to use links to their work.

The Australian government immediately criticised Meta’s decision.

“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,” Australian Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said.

“This decision removes a significant source of revenue for Australian news media businesses. Australian news publishers deserve fair compensation for the content they provide,” Ms Rowland said.

Australia’s Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance – the country’s biggest union for journalists – questioned whether Meta even cares about journalism.

“Facebook should compensate news organisations for making money from their journalism – if it won’t do it voluntarily, the govt should use the powers it has to force it to,” it said in a post on X.