Facebook and Instagram Say They'll Remove All News If Congress Makes Them Pay for It

The company said that if Congress passes the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, it would "be forced to consider" removing all news from its platforms.

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, drew a line in the sand Monday, saying it adamantly opposes a proposed law that would allow newspapers to bargain collectively with social media companies for more ad money in exchange for content. Allowing such a thing would create a “cartel-like entity,” the company claimed.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone outlined the company’s opposition to the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), which was introduced by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and has accrued bipartisan support, in a tweet on Monday after reports surfaced that Congress was considering adding the law to the annual must-pass defense authorization bill. According to Stone, if Congress passes the act, Meta would be “forced to consider removing news” from its platforms completely instead of agreeing to government-mandated negotiations. The same day Meta compared the news media to a cartel, BuzzFeed announced its second round of layoffs this year.

Stone said that the JCPA “unfairly disregard[s] any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions.” He stressed that publishers and broadcasters put their content on Meta platforms themselves “because it benefits their bottom line—not the other way around.” Nearly all of the most widely viewed links on Facebook in the third quarter were news articles, totaling more than 180 million viewers.

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“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,” Stone said.

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Under the JCPA, news publishers will be able to form negotiation groups to collectively negotiate the terms and conditions of a platform’s access to news content. Platforms that meet certain criteria, such as having at least 50 million U.S.-based users, would be required to negotiate with news organizations in good faith.

“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,” Klobuchar said in a news statement in September. “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.”

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Opponents of the JCPA include the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a trade association which includes Meta and Google as members, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, normally an antagonist of Meta and Google over data privacy practices. The CCIA said in a statement on Monday that the JCPA “would compel some digital services to host dangerous content that violates their terms of service on misinformation.” It should be noted Meta already hosts dangerous mis- and dis-information of its own accord.

It’s not clear whether the JCPA has been added to the defense authorization bill. CNN reported that digital rights organization Fight for the Future announced that the JCPA had been added to the defense authorization bill on Monday but was unable to confirm the news. Gizmodo has not been able to independently confirm the JCPA has been added to the defense legislation.

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Gizmodo reached out to Google, which would also be bound to negotiate with news organizations if the act is passed, for comment on Tuesday but did not receive a response.