Facebook warns it could ban news in the US if Congress passes a bill that would require the platform to negotiate with and compensate publishers for their content. Andy Stone, Meta’s head of policy communications, said on Twitter that Facebook will “be forced to consider removing news” from Facebook if the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) is passed. Facebook previously threatened to block news in Canada and Australia when similar laws were proposed.
Introduced last year with bipartisan support, the JCPA would allow publishers to negotiate with platforms like Facebook and Google over the distribution of their content. It’s supposed to give news publishers leverage against Big Tech and could require Facebook to pay for including news on its platform, something that Facebook has fiercely fought in the past in other countries.
“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.”
Last February, Facebook pulled news from the platform in Australia over similar legislation and even ripped down pages belonging to government agencies. While news was later restored when Australia’s bill was amended, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company may have intentionally implemented the chaotic ban to win favorable changes. The amended version of the law gives publishers and platforms two months to strike a deal or otherwise be forced into arbitration. Facebook issued a similar threat in response to Canada’s Online News Act, which would also require the platform to pay for sharing news.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in September by a 15 to seven vote, but it still has to pass through the full Senate. Facebook isn’t the only entity opposing the bill. A total of 26 organizations, including Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote a letter to lawmakers to advocate against the bill. On the other side, a wide alliance of publishing organizations has supported the bill, including The Verge’s parent company, Vox Media.
Cutting off news in one of Facebook’s largest markets would be a dramatic escalation — but the company has proven it’s willing to use scorched earth tactics to stop news payment laws around the world.