If Congress passes a bill that would require publishers to negotiate with the platform and pay for their content, Facebook has threatened to outlaw news in the US. According to Andy Stone, head of policy communications at Meta, if the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) comes into effect, Facebook "will be forced to consider eliminating journalism." While comparable regulations are being considered in Canada and Australia, Facebook has vowed to censor news.
The JCPA, which was introduced last year with bipartisan support, would let content creators negotiate with social media giants like Facebook and Google about how their work is distributed. It aims to give news publishers leverage over big tech and may require Facebook to pay news publishers for the use of their content on its platform — a move that Facebook has met with strong resistance in other nations in the past.
“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 subscription,” Stone writes. “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.”
Meta statement on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act: pic.twitter.com/kyFqKQw7xs— Andy Stone (@andymstone) December 5, 2022
Similar legislation led Facebook to remove news from its site in Australia in February last year, and even removed pages from government organizations. The Wall Street Journal said the business may have deliberately implemented the unregulated ban in an attempt to secure favorable amendments, but the news was eventually reinstated after Australia amended the bill. Publishers and platforms now have two months to reach an agreement before amendments to the law force them into arbitration. In response to Canada's Online News Act, which would similarly pay platforms to distribute news, Facebook made a comparable threat.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September by a vote of 15 to 7, but still requires approval by the full Senate. Not only Facebook is against this law. In a letter to lawmakers opposing the bill, 26 organizations were cited, including Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. On the other hand, the law has the support of a large coalition of media companies, including Vox Media.
It would be a big blow if one of Facebook's biggest markets were cut off from news, but the firm has shown that it can use scorched earth to defeat news pay laws around the world.