Meta has threatened to remove all news content from its sites if Congress passes a law allowing news organizations to negotiate the terms of its content distribution with big tech.
Communications Director Andy Stone tweeted on Monday that if Congress passes the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, Meta would be ‘forced’ to remove all news content from Facebook and Instagram.
The bipartisan bill would allow publications with fewer than 15,000 full-time employees to negotiate ‘pricing, terms and conditions’ whereby major tech platforms may distribute its content.
Advocates of the legislation say it is necessary to counter the market dominance of Facebook and Google, though Meta executives suggest it may actually impede outlets’ revenue as their sites provide traffic to news outlets’ websites.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill with a 15 to 7 vote in September, but it has yet to be introduced on the Senate floor.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, run by CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) threatened on Monday to remove all news content if Congress passes a law allowing news organizations to negotiate the terms of its content distribution with big tech
In a statement on Twitter, Communications Director Andy Stone said if Congress passes the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, Meta would be ‘forced’ to remove all news content from Facebook and Instagram
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act was first introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, last year.
It would create an antitrust exemption allowing news organizations to collectively bargain for payment from companies distributing their stories online.
Klobuchar touted the bill as a way for local news outlets to ‘level the playing field with online platforms’ as she announced that the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.
As she explained, ‘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.
‘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,’ she said.
But Meta executives have argued that the bill misconstrues how its platform relates to local news organizations — saying Facebook and Instagram actually provide them with further revenue streams.
The bipartisan bill was introduced last year by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana. It seeks to create an antitrust exemption allowing news organizations to collectively bargain for payment from companies distributing their stories online
Stone doubled down on that idea in his statement on Monday, as he threatened to pull news organizations from its site.
‘If Congress passes an ill-considered journalism bill as part of national security legislation, we will be forced to consider removing news from our platforms altogether, rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions,’ he said.
‘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,’ he claimed.
‘No company should be forced to pay for content that users don’t want to see and that’s not a meaningful source of revenue,’ he continued.
‘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.’
Meta has previously fought back against similar legislation in Australia, at one point restricting the sharing of news on its platform to much backlash, Poynter reports.
It has also threatened to shut down news sharing on Facebook and Instagram in response to proposed legislation in Canada.
Meta has previously followed through on its threat to restrict the sharing of news on its platform in Australia when law makers there were considering a similar measure last year
The United States bill also faces backlash from conservative Republicans and progressives alike.
On the right, conservatives have expressed their concerns that it may lead to further censorship of Republican voices, with Senator Mike Lee suggesting it could encourage back-room collusion between media organizations and Big Tech.
‘We’re authorizing here two of the entities that are perhaps most hostile to conservatives; newspapers and Big Tech,’ the Republican from Utah told Breitbart.
Meanwhile on the progressive side, the Free Press Action Fund worries the bill would ‘bailout’ executives who have profited from layoffs and consolidation of local 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 organization said in a statement in September.
But advocates of the bill say it is necessary to promote journalism in the United States and tamp down on the dominance of big tech companies like Meta and Google.
‘Our industry is in peril,’ Danielle Coffey, the executive vice president of the News Media Alliance, a group representing news organizations, told Poynter.
‘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 said, adding: ‘The legislation allows us to collectively come together.’
Republican Sen. Mike Lee (pictured) has suggested the bill could encourage back-room collusion between media organizations and Big Tech
The bill follows similar legislation in Australia passed last year, which has resulted in social media sites and Google paying news organizations, both large and small, more than $140million.
Now, the New Zealand government is set to follow 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 said in a statement.
‘It is critical that those benefitting from their news content actually pay for it.’
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group