Facebook owner Meta threatened to remove news content from its platforms on Monday following reports that US lawmakers have added controversial legislation favoring news media to the annual defense authorization bill.
The warning highlights the danger that Meta perceives to its business model in the face of the proposed bill, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA).
The legislation introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and backed by more than a dozen other lawmakers from both parties would create a four-year exemption under US antitrust law allowing news outlets to bargain collectively against social media platforms for a larger share of ad revenue in exchange for their news content. It is one of several tech-focused antitrust bills currently pending on Capitol Hill.
“If Congress passes an ill-considered journalism bill as part of national security legislation,” Meta said in a statement tweeted by spokesman Andy Stone, “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 has shown willingness to follow through on its threat. When similar legislation was on the verge of passing in Australia last year, the company briefly suspended users’ ability to share and view links to news stories on its platforms. (It later changed course and the legislation passed later that year.)
On Monday, Fight for the Future, a digital rights organization, told reporters that “multiple sources” had said a push to include the JCPA in the annual defense bill was successful and that the National Defense Authorization Act included the JCPA’s language. CNN has not independently confirmed the change to the defense bill.
A spokesperson for Klobuchar didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The tech industry has strongly opposed the JCPA, but the bill has also attracted criticism from more than two dozen civil society groups that are often at odds with Big Tech on policy matters.
In a letter Monday to congressional leaders, those groups said the JCPA could make mis- and disinformation worse by allowing news websites to sue tech platforms for reducing a story’s reach and intimidating them into not moderating offensive or misleading content.
The letter also said the JCPA could end up disproportionately favoring large media companies over the small, local and independent outlets that have been hit the hardest by falling digital ad revenues.
Among those that signed the letter were the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Wikimedia Foundation and Public Knowledge.
Digital Content Next, a trade association representing digital media companies, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.