By Mike Cherney

SYDNEY--Facebook owner Meta said it won't enter into new deals with traditional news publishers in Australia and the U.S., saying the number of people in those countries using a dedicated tab for news on Facebook dropped more than 80% last year.

In a blog post, the social media giant--which in 2021 blocked news in Australia amid a dispute with the government there over paying for news--said people will still be able to view links to news articles on Facebook, and that publishers will continue to have access to their accounts where they can post links like anyone else.

Meta said it would "deprecate" the dedicated news tab, called Facebook News, in the U.S. and Australia in early April. Last year, it said it would do the same in the U.K., France and Germany, and similarly said there wouldn't be new deals with publishers in those countries.

"This is part of an ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most," Meta said in the blog post, adding that people want to see more short-form video and that consumers don't come to Facebook for news.

The announcement rekindled a debate in Australia over whether social-media companies like Meta should pay news publishers for content. In 2021, Australia enacted a so-called news media bargaining code that officials say put pressure on Meta and rival Google to enter into commercial deals with publishers.

Australian officials said Friday they would work through all available options under the code, and criticized Meta's decision.

"The decision removes a significant source of revenue for Australian news media businesses," Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said in a statement. "Australian news publishers deserve fair compensation for the content they provide."

Meta's commercial deals with publishers include News Corp, publisher of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. News Corp and Meta reached a three-year deal regarding Australian news in March 2021. News Corp previously reached a deal with Meta in the U.S.

In its blog post, Meta said deals in the U.S. and the U.K. have already expired. It said existing agreements in Australia, France and Germany will remain until their expiration date.

News Corp Australasia Executive Chairman Michael Miller said Meta is using its immense market power to refuse to negotiate, and added that the vast majority of news on Facebook is consumed outside of the Facebook News tab.

"Meta's decision will directly impact the viability of Australia's many small and regional publishers and this is a pressing issue for the government to confront," he said.

Mike Sneesby, the chief executive of Nine Entertainment, which owns newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald, said Meta should negotiate in good faith and that the value created on Facebook from the use of Nine's intellectual property is unquestionable.

"We will continue to robustly advocate that these deals are in the national interest and the arguments that led to the code in the first place remain as strong as ever," he said.

Last year, Meta blocked access to news in Canada in response to similar legislation aimed at obtaining compensation for domestic media. Meta says news makes up less than 3% of what people around the world see in their Facebook feed.

Write to Mike Cherney at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

03-01-24 0032ET