Meta sheds Facebook News in new show of contempt for public interest news reporting
Meta says the Facebook News tab, which is reserved for news content, will disappear in some European countries in December. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regards the move as the latest sign of Meta’s contempt for reliable news and information that serve the public interest.
Despite its manifest imperfections, Facebook News – a tab in the Facebook social media app providing access solely to news media content – was a sign of a desire on the part of Meta to promote public interest news reporting in Facebook. But the group announced on September 5, 2023 that the service will end in early December in the UK, Germany and also France where it had been rolled out in February 2022. The service will remain available only in the United States and Australia. To justify itself, the group points out that "news discovery is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people”. So, the tech giant has suddenly gone into reverse in these three countries while signalling to the entire world that its priorities no longer include promoting quality news.
“Meta’s management is openly acknowledging the contempt that the group has shown for news serving the public interest. This is all the more regrettable since, with Facebook News, Meta had a potential tool for combatting the information chaos on its platform. Under Europe’s Digital Services Act, large platforms are required to correct the systemic risks they pose to society, particularly in terms of disinformation. Instead of trashing Facebook News, Meta could improve it and turn it an effective tool for providing reliable news and information on its platform.”
Head of RSF’s Tech Desk
Meta could have proposed significant improvements to the tool in order to help promote reliable journalistic information, a prerequisite for effectively combating misinformation. Instead, Meta asserts that the disappearance of Facebook News will not affect its commitment to putting people in touch with "reliable information", and recalls in this regard that teams of independent fact-checkers remain mobilized on the platform. But this solution alone cannot be sustainable.
There are still a few months to go before Meta's sentence is enforced for Facebook News in these three countries. So there's still time to reconsider this decision. To combat misinformation in the long term by promoting reliable journalistic sources of information. RSF recommends that Meta :
- Encourage Facebook News media partners to comply with the JTI standard, an international quality journalism standard launched RSF, so that users know that the chosen media use news production methods that conform to media industry standards for trustworthy journalism. The JTI is mentioned in the DSA’s European Code of Conduct on Disinformation;
- Publish a precise and continually updated list of media allowed to appear in the Facebook News feed;
- Allow users a more refined choice in algorithmic curation, by letting them choose from several alternative algorithms, in order to offer diverse approaches to accessing news and information.