Report: Facebook will only pay a quarter of the publishers featured in its coming news section

Facebook is facing growing scrutiny over the way it selectively presents the news to readers.

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When reports emerged last month that Facebook was planning to pay publishers up to $3 million a year to appear in its coming news section, many were concerned that this section would be used to discriminate against independent creators while boosting outlets that Facebook deems to be “trustworthy news” sources. Now new information indicates that Facebook will indeed be discriminating against publishers, even if they do appear in this news section, and only paying a small proportion of those that are featured.

According to The Wall Street Journal’s source, Facebook never planned to pay all the news publishers featured in this section. Instead, it plans to adopt a model similar to its Facebook Watch video section and pay around a quarter of the publishers featured in the news section at launch.

The source added that Facebook is still negotiating with several big publishers about how much of their content will be featured in this coming news section. Facebook reportedly wants news publishers to allow all their stories to be included in this news tab but some outlets are said to be pushing for limited access.

According to the source, this news section is due to launch in October and around 200 publications will be included at launch. The source also said that Breitbart News may be one of the publishers featured in this news section but didn’t reveal whether it would be among the quarter of publishers receiving payments from Facebook. Other publications that are reportedly in talks with Facebook include:

  • Business Insider
  • BuzzFeed
  • HuffPost
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • The New York Times
  • The Wall Street Journal’s parent company Dow Jones & Co

Publishers that do get paid will receive anywhere between several hundred thousand dollars per year to $3 million per year according to the source, with national news outlets receiving the highest payments. The deals would reportedly last for three years.

The source says that ultimately Facebook plans to expand the number of publishers included in the program and include links from Facebook’s local-news project “Today In.”

When it comes to selecting the news that makes it into this section, a mixture of algorithms and human curation will reportedly be used and all news links in this section will direct readers to publisher websites.

Factors that may influence how high stories rank in this coming news section include being the first outlet to report the story and using named sources instead of anonymous sources when reporting.

The news that Facebook is planning to selectively discriminate against the publishers in its news section by only paying a minority of those that appear and eventually including links to its own news projects in this section comes amid wider concerns of Facebook using its features to selectively present the news to its readers.

For example, Facebook recently announced that you can only mention activist and journalist Tommy Robinson if you’re criticizing him or saying “he’s an idiot” – a discriminatory practice that will mean any neutral or positive news coverage of Robinson is scrubbed from the platform.

Facebook’s “fact-checking” program, which suppresses news and other posts that are labeled as false, has also come under scrutiny recently with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreeing that there “clearly was bias” in Facebook’s fact-check of news and updates from the pro-life non-profit Live Action.

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