Meta today announced that it will be pulling the plug on Facebook News in the U.K., Germany and France starting in early December.
The social networking giant said it was part of its "ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most."
Facebook News, for the uninitiated, is a curated news section for publishers introduced by Meta back in 2019, existing in its own dedicated tab within the main Facebook interface. It was first introduced in its domestic U.S. market, before going international starting with the U.K., Germany, Australia and France. The company had planned to bring the service to Brazil and India, but it seems those launches never fully materialized.
Facebook News surfaces local and international news relevant to each market. In its original guise, suggested articles were determined algorithmically, with a separate "top stories" section curated by humans. But as of last year, Meta revealed it was making the entire section algorithmic.
Facebook News Image Credits: TechCrunch
Today's announcement is pretty much consistent with Meta's efforts elsewhere in the online news realm. While sharing news has been a major part of Facebook almost since its inception, it's clear that it has been deprioritizing it in recent years for a multitude of reasons. This includes the divisive nature of certain stories, particularly those of a political nature, leading the company to transition more toward the so-called creator economy. Part of this also entailed renaming its news feed as "feed" last year.
However, the bigger picture here is that there has been a broader industrial and legislative pushback against the role that Big Tech plays in distributing news. This led to new legislation in countries such as Australia, which stipulates that online platforms should compensate publishers for their content -- a move that seems to have worked as the big tech companies subsequently negotiated deals with many publishers.
More recently, Canada passed similar legislation as part of its Online News Act, though this spurred Meta to start blocking Canadians' access to stories from news publishers. This led some to question why Meta couldn't reach similar deals with Canadian outlets as it did in Australia, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lambasted Facebook for its actions.
Elsewhere, similar mandates are working their way through their various legal channels, including the U.S. In Europe, meanwhile, the EU Copyright Directive has also led Meta and Google to sign various licensing deals in the past couple of years.
More broadly, publishers across the spectrum have reported a drop in referral traffic from Facebook in recent months, confirming Meta's long-stated mission to move away from news. Indeed, the company has previously stated that news constitutes less than 3% of the content people see in their feed, a figure it stuck to with today's announcement on Facebook News in Europe.
"We know that people don’t come to Facebook for news and political content -- they come to connect with people and discover new opportunities, passions and interests," the company wrote.
With the U.K., Germany and France, Meta is quick to stress that it's not blocking links to articles or publishers' pages -- it's merely getting rid of the dedicated News tab.
"European news publishers will continue to have access to their Facebook accounts and Pages, where they can post links to their stories and direct people to their websites in the way any other individual or organization can," the company said.
And if there was any lingering doubt as to Meta's future plans for news publishers, it seems to have addressed that by stating it does "not expect to offer new Facebook products specifically for news publishers in the future."
For now, though, the Facebook News tab remains active in the U.S. and Australia. For how long, though, is anyone's guess.