The parent company of Facebook – Meta Platforms – is threatening to ban news altogether in the United States if a recent law that forces the company to compensate publishers is approved by the Senate.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is the name of the law that the country’s legislators are pushing forward to regulate the relationship between big tech corporations including social media companies and media outlets.
According to Congress’s official website, the bill was approved by the Senate’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights in late November and is now included in the Senate’s Legislative Calendar.
The bill has bipartisan support and is being sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. Back in February when the bill was being discussed in the subcommittee, Klobuchar commented that big tech firms “are not friends to journalism”.
“They are raking in ad dollars while taking news content, feeding it to their users, and refusing to offer fair compensation”, Klobuchar emphasized during her initial speech.
Meta Resorts to the Same Tactics it Used in Australia and Canada
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will allow news publishers to join forces to negotiate fair deals with social media platforms and other similar online channels to determine how they should be compensated for making their content available to their users.
Meta Platforms (META) responded aggressively to the approval of the bill in the Senate’s subcommittee and threatened to take down this type of content from its US platform if the law is ultimately passed by Congress.
Meta statement on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act: pic.twitter.com/kyFqKQw7xs
— Andy Stone (@andymstone) December 5, 2022
In a statement shared by Andy Stone, Facebook’s Policy Communications Director, the company deemed the law as an “ill-considered journalism bill”. Facebook will abstain from submitting to “government-mandated negotiations”. It emphasized that the reason why publishers share their content on the company’s platform is “because it benefits their bottom line” and not the other way around.
Other countries including Australia and Canada have attempted to push forward similar legislative initiatives and have encountered the same level of hostile resistance from Meta as well.
In Australia, the company blocked all news for its users within the country after legislators approved a bill that forced the firm to pay publishers for using their content. Facebook’s response was quite aggressive as the company removed the possibility of sharing news for Australian users while local publishers were banned from sharing or posting content on their Facebook pages.
An amended version of the country’s News Media Bargaining Code was ultimately passed but gave Facebook two months to make a deal with local publishers or force the company to go into arbitration to reach a common ground.
Meanwhile, the company threatened to take similar actions in Canada after legislators approved the Online News Act.
Facebook Claims that News Are Irrelevant but Statistics Say Otherwise
According to Facebook, news outlets in Canada brought approximately CAD 230 million in revenue from September 2021 to October 2022 as a result of the 1.9 billion clocks their news received via the social media platform. The company claims that news are not a relevant source of traffic or a meaningful source of revenue for them but that it is the other way around.
However, according to a survey from Pew Research, almost half of Americans got their news from social media platforms in 2021. Interestingly, the majority of those users – roughly two-thirds – viewed this kind of content on Facebook specifically.
What this indicates is that news articles are among the most popular type of content within social media. Removing that kind of content or forcing social media empires to pay for it could severely hurt their top line and may also reduce the extent to which users access the platforms.
However, Facebook appears to be comfortable with taking hostile measures such as banning news altogether in any country that pushes forward an initiative that seeks to compensate media outlets for their work.
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