Facebook may set up tab for news, is willing to pay content creators

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testifying at a Senate hearing in Washington last year. The social media giant is facing new European Union copyright rules that will require it to compensate publishers and creators for news articles, songs a
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testifying at a Senate hearing in Washington last year. The social media giant is facing new European Union copyright rules that will require it to compensate publishers and creators for news articles, songs and videos that appear on its website. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Quality news sources could help its users make more informed decisions, says CEO

SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that the company is considering building a dedicated tab on the social network for news, and is willing to pay publishers for high-quality content.

It is a change from the priorities Mr Zuckerberg laid out last year, which focused on friends and family content in the news feed, shifting away from other types of posts.

He now says that quality news sources could help Facebook users make more informed decisions.

"It is important to me that we help people get trustworthy news and find solutions that help journalists around the world do their important work," said Mr Zuckerberg.

He made the comments in a discussion with Axel Springer chief executive Mathias Doepfner, who runs the largest publisher in Europe, reported Bloomberg.

The social networking leader may have other reasons for adopting the new priority: The company is facing new European Union copyright rules that will require it to compensate publishers and creators for news articles, songs and videos that appear on its website.

Over the last decade, Facebook's news feed algorithm has emphasised content that spurs emotion and sharing - a force that shaped the news industry and gave rise to Internet clickbait and misinformation, and made things harder for local news publishers who could not reach enough scale to make money.

Now, Facebook has been working to undo some of that damage through product chan-ges, as well as small payments to third-party fact-checkers and local news groups.

The idea that Facebook would pay publishers to host their journalism on the social network has long been a dream of media executives. News Corp CEO Robert Thomson has called on Facebook to pay publishers the same way that a cable TV company pays to carry cable channels like ESPN or CNN.

"We hope Mark's words are followed by concrete steps towards actually creating a new business model that recognises and compensates the work of quality journalism," Mr Thomson said in a statement on Monday.

BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti has also said that Facebook should share more revenue generated by its news feed with media outlets.

A 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre found that 44 per cent of Americans were getting their news from Facebook, highlighting the dominance that made it difficult for publishers not to consider putting their content on the platform for distribution.

Mr Zuckerberg's latest proposal is not the first time Facebook has floated the idea that publishers of the news should get some benefit from using the site to disseminate their articles.

Rumours of the company developing a metered paywall for news articles surfaced in June 2017 and were confirmed by Facebook as part of plans to launch a paid news subscription tool for news publications on its "Instant Articles" platform.

The paywall was intended to kick in after users consumed a certain number of articles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook may set up tab for news, is willing to pay content creators'. Print Edition | Subscribe