Facebook has struck a deal that will see the mainstream media in Britain rake in millions, as the social media giant again prioritises the corporate press over independent media.
On Tuesday, the Silicon Valley company announced that it will launch its Facebook News service in the UK — the first country outside of the United States — after it signed deals with British MSM outlets including Sky News, the Financial Times, the Daily Mail and The Guardian as well as a selection of local news sites.
The deal will see Facebook pay millions of pounds sterling to news publishers in the UK, in an apparent attempt to prop up the mainstream media, which has seen profits plunge in the wake of blossoming independent media and even further declining during the economic fallout of the Chinese coronavirus.
Facebook said in a statement that the move is “the beginning of a series of international investments in news.”
The tech giant went on to say that it “puts original journalism in front of new audiences as well as providing publishers with more advertising and subscription opportunities to build sustainable businesses for the future.”
According to The Guardian — who stands to benefit from the scheme — Facebook will contract news editors from the news aggregator Upday to work in tandem with the tech company’s curation team to select which news stories will appear on the news feed. Some stories will still be able to reach a user’s feed through a more organic algorithmic selection process, the company claimed.
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Facebook said that the News section will provide “timely news digests, highlighting original and authoritative reporting on the biggest stories.”
“For example, we’re currently highlighting a collection of COVID-19-specific stories, giving people access to timely and relevant news and information about the pandemic,” Facebook said about their launch in the UK.
While the majority of major news outlets have signed deals with Facebook, the Rupert Murdoch owned News UK, which publishes The Sun and The Times, has so far not signed onto the scheme. However, News UK already as a deal in place with Apple News.
Besides benefiting from closer relationships with the corporate press in Britain, the move may also be an attempt to avoid international regulation.
In a world-first, Australia announced last year its intentions to require Facebook alongside Google to pay Australian news outlets royalties for using their content, with similar threats emerging from the European Union, which has proposed a “link tax“.
Regardless, the new regime will likely further serve to suppress independent media.
Breitbart News’ Allum Bokhari wrote of the News Feed service in July: “Independent bloggers and journalists who don’t have the funding or resources of mainstream news, and provide an alternative perspective on stories in the mainstream news, will not be promoted, even if their perspective or interpretation of the story is original.”
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