Meta warned Monday that it will consider killing news on its platforms such as Facebook if Congress passes an antitrust journalism bill, teeing up a major clash between Big Tech companies and federal lawmakers before the new year.
A draft amendment emerged on Monday to insert the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act into a major annual defense bill. The move would require lawmakers to consider the legislation that aims to diminish Big Tech companies’ negotiating power over advertising and distribution in the news industry.
Meta said the legislation would set a terrible precedent for all American businesses by forcing one set of private companies to subsidize a collection of other private entities.
“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 said in a statement shared by spokesperson Andy Stone on Twitter.
Supporters of the legislation say it will better allow news publishers to collectively negotiate against companies such as Facebook and Google, while detractors say the bill proposes to establish a media cartel forcibly subsidized by the tech companies.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would “support small, local, independent and conservative news publications that struggle to survive under the weight of Big Tech’s market dominance and censorship efforts,” according to the News/Media Alliance, a coalition of news organizations including The Washington Times that supports the measure.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, and John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, are original co-sponsors of the Senate’s antitrust journalism legislation that has received support from a range of publishers, including several conservative outlets.
Mr. Kennedy said in September that tech giants such as Facebook and Google “are strangling smaller conservative publications by keeping them from making a profit on online platforms.”
“The manipulation is squashing free speech,” Mr. Kennedy said. “This bill bars Big Tech firms from throttling, filtering, suppressing or curating online content while providing local news outlets with a fair playing field to negotiate against these censorship giants.”
Meta, however, said it should not be forced to pay for content people do not want to view on its platform.
“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 said in its statement on Monday.
Opponents of the bill alongside Meta include organizations such as the liberal Chamber of Progress and a coalition it organized, and conservatives such as Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, who branded the bill in September as “nothing less than Obamacare for the press.”
Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said Monday that Democrats should oppose the bill because the biggest beneficiary will be conservative news outlets.
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“Everything we know about link sharing on Facebook and search engines suggests that rightwing media will be best positioned to take advantage of this law,” Mr. Kovacevich said in a statement. “Democrats shouldn’t turn online platforms into cash machines for conservative outlets.”
Mr. Kovacevich’s organization joined with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Wikimedia Foundation that hosts Wikipedia, and 23 other groups to pen a letter on Monday asking congressional leadership to scrap the antitrust legislation.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.