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Facebook denies “imbalance of power” between platforms and publishers

Facebook logo A senior Facebook executive has denied there is an “imbalance of power” between the social media platform and publishers as he gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry.

The House of Lords Digital and Communications Select Committee is looking into the future of journalism including the question of whether ‘digital giants’ Google and Facebook should be made to pay publishers for the content they re-use.

Asked about the perceived imbalance between their platforms and news publishers, Facebook’s director of public policy for Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, Edward Bowles, told peers: “There is no sense in which we see an imbalance of power.”

His comments led the chair of the committee to question whether Facebook and news publishers were “living in different worlds.”

Members of the committee repeatedly sought to pin down representatives of both Facebook and Google on the question of whether the platforms should be paying publishers to re-use their content.

But both Mr Bowles and Google’s Government Affairs and Public Policy Manager, Tom Morrison-Bell declined to engage with the issue directly, instead referring to various funding initiatives such as Facebook’s Community News Project and Google’s News Initiative.

Mr Bowles was keen to highlight the success of the community news project, which has seen the platform fund 80 trainee journalism jobs over two years.

He revealed that all but three of the 80 jobs had been provided in regional and local publications, and 68pc had come from a “very diverse range of backgrounds”.

The committee expressed surprise at how the platforms’ representatives characterized their relationships with publishers as being highly cooperative and productive in spite of evidence given earlier in the day by representatives of DMG Media and News UK which painted a different picture.

Committee chair Lord Gilbert commented: “It seems as though [publishers and platforms] are living in completely different worlds.”

This session was the latest hearing the Committee’s Future of Journalism inquiry, which will next hear evidence on 30th June.

The full hearing can be seen on Parliamentlive.TV here.