Facebook Threatens to Pull News If Congress Passes Bill Helping Publishers

From a Wall Street Journal story by Alexandra Bruell headlined “Facebook Threatens to Pull News From Platform if Congress Passes Bill Helping Publishers”:

Meta Platforms Inc. is threatening to remove news from Facebook in the U.S. if Congress passes legislation meant to help publishers team up to negotiate payments from tech companies, echoing similar warnings that the company has lobbed at various governments around the world.

“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,” Meta tweeted on Monday as part of a longer statement condemning the bill, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.

Facebook’s statement followed a recent change in which the news-oriented legislation was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill focused on national security, according to people familiar with the matter.

In Australia last year, Facebook removed news from its platform for several days, as legislation that would require the company and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to negotiate paying traditional media companies for content worked its way through the country’s parliament. The company has threatened to do the same thing in Canada, where similar legislation is under review.

Facebook eventually restored news on its platform in Australia as part of a deal with the Australian government that saw the company get some changes to the legislation, which later became law.

New Zealand this week became the latest country to wade into the debate over whether big tech companies unfairly benefit from news shared on their platforms. New Zealand said its proposal, which will be based on Australia’s law and introduced legislation in Canada, will be designed to act as an incentive for digital platforms to reach voluntary deals with local news outlets.

The U.S. bill would create a baseball-style arbitration process similar to Australia’s, enabling smaller publishers to negotiate for compensation when technology giants such as Facebook and Google use their content.

Media executives have said that small, local news organizations feel they don’t have the size or resources needed to negotiate with the much larger tech companies. Large national outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, wouldn’t be covered by the bill, according to sponsors, although newspaper chains and TV station groups could benefit.

A recent Senate committee approved the bill after a meeting to advance the legislation hit a bump when Democrats and Republicans began disagreeing over how it treats content moderation.

Separately, Meta earlier began telling publishers in the U.S. it wouldn’t continue paying them to feature their content in the platform’s news tab.

Google is working on its own product that pays publishers to feature their content, but its U.S. launch is behind schedule because negotiations with some media outlets have bogged down, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Some U.S. publishers have hesitated to accept licensing deals from Google because they viewed the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act as a better alternative for negotiating payments, the Journal reported.

Google previously said the licensing program, named Google News Showcase, is meant to create “new and deeper partnerships around the world and, importantly, will power great experiences for people online.” The company declined to comment on the legislation.

Alexandra Bruell covers the fast-changing business of media, including news, magazine and digital media publishers.

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