Meta is threatening to remove all news content from Facebook in an apparent attempt to pressure Congress over potentially passing the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act that would counter market dominance by social media giants.
The act would ostensibly allow news organizations to negotiate the terms of their content distribution with Big Tech according to the Daily Mail. The move would allegedly impact Meta’s revenue and the company has its fur up over the attempt at leveling the playing field for news.
On Monday, Meta’s Communications Director Andy Stone tweeted that if Congress passes the bill, the company would be “forced” to remove all news content from Facebook and Instagram.
“If Congress passes an ill-considered journalism bill as part of national security legislation, we will be forced to consider removing news from our platform altogether rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions,” the statement from Meta asserted.
“The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act fails to recognize the key fact: publishers and broadcasters put their content on our platform themselves because it benefits their bottom line – not the other way around. No company should be forced to pay for content users don’t want to see and that’s not a meaningful source of revenue. Put simply: the government creating a cartel-like entity which requires one private company to subsidize other private entities is a terrible precedent for all American businesses,” it concludes.
Meta statement on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act: pic.twitter.com/kyFqKQw7xs
— Andy Stone (@andymstone) December 5, 2022
The bipartisan bill would allow publications with fewer than 15,000 full-time employees to negotiate “pricing, terms and conditions” regarding how tech giants distribute news content.
Those pushing the legislation are contending it is necessary to counter the market dominance of Facebook and Google. Meta executives in turn claim it will impede outlets’ revenue since its sites provide traffic to news outlets’ websites.
The bill was passed in September by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 15 to 7 vote. It has not been introduced to the Senate floor yet.
The News Media Alliance is lobbying Congress to add the bill to the defense spending plan. According to the New York Post, the group asserts that “local papers cannot afford to endure several more years of Big Tech’s use and abuse, and time to take action is dwindling. If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) first introduced the bill last year. It creates an antitrust exemption that allows news organizations to collectively bargain for payment from companies that distribute their stories online.
📃 #Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc said it would be forced to remove #news from its platform altogether if the U.S. Congress passes the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, arguing broadcasters benefited from posting their #content on its platform ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/G8AmhOKvGo
— Facts Matter (@FactsMatter_me) December 5, 2022
Klobucher said the bill would “level the playing field with online platforms.”
“Local news is facing an existential crisis, with ad revenues plummeting, newspapers closing, and many rural communities becoming ‘news deserts’ without access to local reporting. To preserve strong, independent journalism, we have to make sure news organizations are able to negotiate on a level playing field with the online platforms that have come to dominate news distribution and digital advertising,” she declared.
“Our bipartisan legislation ensures media outlets will be able to band together and negotiate for fair compensation from the Big Tech companies that profit from their news content, allowing journalists to continue their critical work of keeping communities informed,” Klobucher added.
Meta has been battling similar legislation in Australia. According to Poynter, at one point the company restricted sharing news on its platform and was the subject of intense backlash over it. The move resulted in social media sites and Google paying news organizations, both large and small, more than $140 million.
The Big Tech giant has also threatened to shut down news sharing on Facebook and Instagram in response to proposed legislation in Canada.
This quote tweet nails it https://t.co/LjTPjn0x4D
— cindywho? (@holacindy) December 6, 2022
New Zealand’s government is following suit, announcing over the weekend that it will introduce a law requiring Google and Meta to pay media companies for local news content.
“New Zealand news media, particularly small, regional and community newspapers, are struggling to remain financially viable as more advertising moves online,” Minister of Broadcasting Willie Jackson proclaimed in a statement. “It is critical that those benefitting from their news content actually pay for it.”
Both Republicans and Democrats have concerns over the bill.
Conservatives fear that the bill could lead to further censorship of Republican voices. Constitutionalist Senator Mike Lee suggested it could encourage back-room collusion between media organizations and Big Tech.
Giving the media cartel power to censor conservatives would be a mistake.
Congress should vote down the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.
— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) December 2, 2022
“We’re authorizing here two of the entities that are perhaps most hostile to conservatives; newspapers and Big Tech,” the Utah Republican told Breitbart.
Breitbart is also reporting that there is a loophole in the bill that would let the communist Chinese have an even bigger say in the dissemination of news in the United States, “The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) contains a loophole that would allow foreign news organizations, including Chinese organizations, to influence the flow of information in the United States — even as lawmakers prepare to attach the derided media bailout bill to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill to fund national defense.”
Democrats are concerned that the bill would “bail out” executives who have profited from layoffs and consolidation of local news outlets.
“The top priority of the media giants that would most likely collude in the proposed negotiations is to maximize their profits, not serve the interests and needs of [the] people,” the Free Press Action Fund said via a statement in September.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is bad news for local news. I've forwarded today's letter signed by @LIONPubs and others to staff from @RepBrianFitz, @SenToomey, and @SenBobCasey's offices. https://t.co/nIFw4EvT1l pic.twitter.com/zsLBuyUjv5
— Tom Sofield (@BuxMontNews) December 6, 2022
Advocates believe that the bill is necessary to promote journalism and quell the dominance of Big Tech companies like Meta and Google.
“Our industry is in peril,” Danielle Coffey, who is the executive vice president of the News Media Alliance, a group that represents news organizations, told Poynter in an interview.
“We have these two monopolies who are drowning us because we cannot receive the revenue that would benefit consumers through a greater output of quality journalism,” she asserted. “The legislation allows us to collectively come together.”
Reuters is reporting that more than two dozen groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge, and the Computer & Communications Industry Association urged Congress on Monday to nix the local news bill claiming it would “create an ill-advised antitrust exemption for publishers and broadcasters” and argued the bill does not require “funds gained through negotiation or arbitration will even be paid to journalists.”
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