Facebook to press publishers: Go screw yourselves!

Monday, Jun 15, 2020

In reaction to the Australian plans to make Google and Facebook pay for featuring new media content in their products, Facebook has now one-upped last years statement from Google in France and told press publishers that they can go screw themselves:

If there were no news content available on Facebook in Australia, we are confident the impact on Facebook’s community metrics and revenues in Australia would not be significant, because news content is highly substitutable and most users do not come to Facebook with the intention of viewing news. But the absence of news on Facebook would mean publishers miss out on the commercial benefits of reaching a wide and diverse audience, and social value would be diminished because news would be harder to access for millions of Australians.

Unfortunately for the publishers this is of course a pretty accurate description of the dynamics at play here. As i have argued before, from the perspective of the platforms it makes no sense whatsoever that they should pay for delivering customers to press publishers. As Facebooks response above shows, the only effect of such proposals is to make the platforms mad, and walk away from the table. This is precisely the reason why, instead of fabulating about questionable value transfers, we should rather think about taxing the value that platforms extract from the system as a whole.