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Facebook to pay news publishers in UK for content from 2021

Facebook will launch its curated news platform, Facebook News, in the United Kingdom in January 2021. The social media giant announced on Monday that it will begin paying news publishers in the UK for featuring content — that is not already on the platform — in a dedicated news tab in the Facebook app.

The company said some of UK’s biggest news publishers such as Conde Nast, The Economist, Guardian Media Group and so on will feature on Facebook News. “We expect many more partners to join prior to launch,” the company said in its statement.

Facebook News was launched in the United States last year, and significantly revamped in June this year. Facebook claimed the US launch was quite successful. It said 95% of the traffic it delivers to publishers is from people who have never interacted with those news outlets in the past, indicating significant increase in new readership for its partners.

The company said it is working to launch the product in France and Germany as well, and in other countries “where market conditions and regulatory environments invite this kind of investment and innovation”. This was an indirect reference to the opposition it is facing in Australia, where the country’s antitrust regulator has tried to Facebook and Google to strike a revenue-sharing deal with news publishers. In September, Facebook had threatened to block news sharing on its platforms if Australia passes the proposed News Media Bargaining Code. Tech giant Google recently dropped a similar curated news product in Australia because of the code, calling it “unworkable”.

Interestingly, Facebook’s announcement comes at a time when the UK government is looking closely into antitrust concerns. Earlier this week, it said it will set up a new unit to look into Big Tech companies, specifically Google and Facebook. This body — the Digital Markets Unit — is expected to look into the sustainability of the news publishing industry. It had noted that online platforms were affecting the publishers’ “ability to thrive” because of the former’s dominance of the digital advertising industry. It remains to be seen if the latest Facebook News platform will find the approval of the proposed Digital Markets Unit.

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