Meta claims news is not an antidote to misinformation on its platforms | Australian media

Meta has claimed news is not the antidote to misinformation and disinformation spreading on Facebook and Instagram, as the company continues to push back against being forced to pay media companies for news in Australia.

Meta announced in March it would not enter into new agreements with media companies to pay for news following the end of contracts signed in 2021 under the Morrison government’s news media bargaining code.

The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, is considering whether the Albanese government should use powers under the news media bargaining code legislation to “designate” Meta under the code, which would force the tech company to enter negotiations for payment with news providers, or risk fines of 10% of its Australian revenue.

The treasury department is also considering other options, including whether it could force the company to carry news or influence it via the tax system. The government is concerned that if Meta is designated under the code it will block news in Australia, as it did in Canada since August last year.

A Canadian expert told Guardian Australia that where news went missing, it was replaced with misleading viral content.

In a submission to the federal parliament’s inquiry on social media and Australian society, Meta said it was “unaware of any evidence” to support the assertion there was more misinformation on its platform in Canada as a result of the news ban, and said Meta had “never thought about news as a way to minimise misinformation/disinformation on our services”.

“With or without news content, we are incentivised to – and do – remove harmful misinformation and reduce distribution for fact-checked misinformation, and we remain steadfast in our commitments to ensure the integrity of information on our platforms by countering this type of harmful content,” the submission said.

“Canadians can continue to use our services to access authoritative information from a range of sources, including government agencies, political parties and non-governmental organisations, which have always shared information with their audiences in engaging formats, in addition to links to news content.”

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Meta pointed to its third-party factchecking partnerships to verify or label content, which remains available in Canada, as part of its work to limit the spread of misinformation. The company said since the news ban in Canada, there had not been a significant drop in engagement from Canadian users.

“News is substitutable,” Meta said.

An analysis by Guardian Australia previously found news was replaced largely with memes on Facebook.

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Meta’s director of policy in Australia, Mia Garlick, told the committee last month that all options were on the table if Meta was designated under the news code, but refused to comment on the hypothetical option of blocking news.

Publishers have said the effect of a news block would be devastating. Broadsheet – which publishes city, restaurant and entertainment guides – told the committee in a submission it would lose up to 52% of its revenue should news be blocked. The publisher said it “would make it nearly impossible for the business to survive”.

There also has been a push for other platforms, including TikTok, to be designated under the code. TikTok told the inquiry, however, that of the content consumed by the 8.5 million Australians on the platform, less than 0.5% is professional news content.

This was despite TikTok’s own economic report released earlier this year finding 27.5% of users come to the app for current events and social causes. TikTok’s director of public policy in Australia, Ella Woods-Joyce, explained the difference is that what the public considers news may be different to what media and politicians consider news.

“I understand that the code defines ‘news’ in a very particular way, and it’s reasonable that we would consider using it in a particular way, but the broader community may have a different view of what news actually is for them.”

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