Meta Threatens To Remove News From Platform If Journalism Bill Passes

Meta Platforms on Monday threatened to remove news from its social networking service if Congress passes the controversial Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. 

“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,” spokesperson Andy Stone said Monday on Twitter.

Meta's move came the same day that Senate lawmakers proposed attaching the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to this year's must-pass defense spending bill.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, would allow news outlets to band together to negotiate with large tech companies over payment for “access” to news articles.

News organizations with fewer than 1,500 employees would be covered, except for broadcasters, which wouldn't be subject to that cap.

The bill also would prohibit technology companies from negotiating over content moderation -- effectively preventing Google or Facebook from removing misleading stories, while also requiring the platforms to subsidize news organizations that publish such pieces.

Other provisions prohibit platforms from discriminating against news organizations that participate in joint negotiations, or from “retaliating” against them -- including by demoting those organizations' content or refusing to index it.

Some news industry groups, including the News Media Alliance and state broadcast associations, support the bill, arguing that large tech companies should be required to compensate journalistic organizations for content.

The technology industry generally opposes the proposed law. Digital rights groups also oppose the bill, arguing that it violates the First Amendment by forcing tech companies to promote news articles that are false, or that violate the companies' own editorial standards.

A coalition of 26 advocacy and policy groups -- including the American Civil Liberties Union, Chamber of Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge -- on Monday urged lawmakers to reject the measure.

The groups say in a letter to lawmakers that the proposed law “will compound some of the biggest issues in our information landscape and do little to enable the most promising new models to improve it.”

The organizations add that provisions prohibiting tech companies from negotiating over content, and from discriminating against news providers, represents “a direct assault on a bedrock principle of content moderation on the internet,” and “will increase the amount of networked disinformation, hate speech, and harassment found there.”

“This form of government mandate for covered platforms to carry and pay is also contrary to First Amendment protections,” the groups write.

They also say the bill conflicts with federal copyright law, as well as prior court cases.

“The bill’s basic mechanism expands the rights of content owners beyond the traditional bounds of copyright law in ways that would prove detrimental to the public interest,” the groups write. “Requiring payment for using facts also flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent, based on the First Amendment, that no one may own facts.”

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