Mark Zuckerberg Explored Acquiring The Associated Press

Inside Zuckerberg’s Attempt to Subsidize The AP

by Faruk Imamovic
Mark Zuckerberg Explored Acquiring The Associated Press
© Getty Images/Drew Angerer

In a revealing exploration of Meta's past dealings with the news industry, a deeper look into Mark Zuckerberg's ambitions unveils an era where the Facebook founder pondered significantly increasing the company's stakes in news dissemination.

Between 2017 and 2018, Zuckerberg harbored intentions to acquire a major news outlet, with The Associated Press (AP) emerging as a primary target.

Exploring an Acquisition

According to insiders who spoke to Business Insider on condition of anonymity, the idea of acquiring the AP was thoroughly discussed within Facebook.

Zuckerberg considered several approaches: subsidizing the AP permanently through Facebook, supporting it as an individual much like Jeff Bezos with The Washington Post, or funneling aid through his philanthropic venture, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

However, the AP's structure as a news cooperative meant that outright acquisition was off the table. Despite this, discussions about subsidizing the AP to ensure a steady flow of high-quality news across Facebook platforms were serious enough to involve the company's mergers-and-acquisitions team.

This move was seen as a potential solution to bolster the platform’s news credibility, especially in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election—a time that saw Facebook grappling with its role in political polarization and misinformation.

Zuckerberg, who initially downplayed Facebook's influence on political dynamics, altered his stance in a 2017 memo. He emphasized the need for the platform to adopt a more conscientious approach towards news content. "Giving people a voice is not enough without having people dedicated to uncovering new information and analyzing it," Zuckerberg stated.

"There is more we must do to support the news industry to make sure this vital social function is sustainable."

Challenges and Retreat

Despite the ambition, Facebook retreated from these plans. Concerns over regulatory scrutiny were pivotal in halting the subsidization talks.

A spokesperson for the AP clarified to Business Insider that any discussions did not involve the agency directly and reiterated the cooperative's non-saleable status. Around the same period, Zuckerberg also entertained the idea of creating a standalone news organization under the Facebook umbrella, aimed at hiring top journalistic talent with attractive salaries to produce original content.

However, this too was shelved due to worries about potential public backlash and the already shaky trust in Facebook's handling of news content.

Mark Zuckerberg