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Facebook threatens to ban all news

Attendees take a selfie in front of a Facebook sign at F8, the Facebook's developer conference, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar/TNS)
December 06, 2022

Facebook is threatening to ban the sharing of news on its platform if Congress passes a law aimed at giving the news industry leverage over tech companies widely blamed for undermining news revenue streams.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would allow news organizations to collectively negotiate deals for Facebook and Google to distribute their content. 

Lawmakers say the goal is to prop up local news by giving outlets more power in social media distribution, which is thought to be soaking up their revenue and fueling the industry’s collapse. Organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union recently banded together to oppose the bill as unfair and potentially counterproductive.

The bill is on track to become law, tucked away in a must-pass annual military funding bill, Axios reported. But Andy Stone, spokesman for Facebook parent Meta Platforms, is saying its passage could mean the end of news on Facebook altogether.

“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,” Stone said. 

He said the bill would create “a cartel-like entity which requires one private company to subsidize other private companies,” setting “a terrible precedent for all American businesses.” He added that the bill “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.”

Canada and Australia have already implemented similar laws forcing Facebook to share news revenue. Facebook also threatened to block news in both of those countries, and briefly did so in Australia. It restored news a week later after Australia changed the law to allow more negotiating time before tech companies are forced into a government-run arbitration process.

The proposed U.S. law allows news publishers to demand entering arbitration if negotiations reach an impasse.

A recent government report in Australia determined that its law “has been a success” since being introduced in March 2021, Reuters reported.