In Germany, Facebook is trying to convince the media of its good intentions. The social network has just announced the launch in the country, from May, of its news platform Facebook News which will broadcast the articles of a hundred German media having accepted the remuneration of the tech giant. “Facebook News, a place dedicated to journalistic content, will begin in May 2021 in Germany,” Mark Zuckerberg’s group announced in a statement.
This service, launched at the end of 2019 in the United States, then at the end of January in the United Kingdom, is a news feed composed only of articles from press editors, paid by Facebook. With this project, the group is showing its desire to promote journalism and shed its reputation for disinformation.
This initiative comes a few months before the entry into force in Germany of the European directive on copyright, adopted in Brussels two years ago. The scope of this text is still debated across the Rhine. But it could force platforms, including Facebook, to pay media whose content is shared by users. In France, this directive has already prompted Google to sign an agreement with a group of media that will be paid for their information.
Outside of Europe, Facebook faces several simultaneous assaults. In Australia, the Californian group ended its standoff against the government on February 23 after preventing users from sharing news articles for several days. At issue: a bill asking Google and Facebook to pay press titles for sharing their articles. In the United States, Joe Biden has been critical of the growing power of platforms. Although he has yet to give details of his strategy in the face of Silicon Valley, companies in the sector expect tighter regulation.
Axel Springer resists the invader
Facebook has therefore partnered with “more than a hundred media brands” in Germany, including the prestigious Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the business daily Handelsblatt. Only the Axel Springer group, publisher of Germany’s most widely read tabloid Bild, refused to participate in the project.
“It is problematic that a platform tries to become itself an information medium and to extract from certain publishers too low remuneration”, told AFP a spokesperson for the group. “We are rather in favor of a European copyright which allows, in a transparent manner, all publishers to receive fair remuneration,” he adds.
Newspaper publishers are experiencing a crisis in advertising revenue, the majority of which is captured by the digital giants who distribute their articles without remuneration. This situation has worsened further with the coronavirus pandemic which has plunged the advertising market. To rebalance revenues between media and digital platforms, the European Union adopted in 2019 the “neighboring rights” directive, which requires digital giants to sign remuneration agreements with the media.