Facebook has officially threatened to eliminate news content from its US platform if the Congress demands big tech companies to pay publishers and broadcasters for carrying their content.
The warning is reminiscent of Facebook’s brief decision last year to ban news from its website in Australia, an attempt to defy pioneering legislation designed to change the trade terms between publishers and platforms.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, issued a warning on Monday after a long-debated bill intended to empower American news organisations was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, significantly increasing its chances of passage.
“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,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone tweeted.
“No company should be forced to pay for content users don’t want to see and that’s not a meaningful source of revenue,” he added.
The standoff reflects Meta’s tougher stance as it adjusts its approach to paying for news and fights tighter regulatory requirements around the world.
In recent years, Meta has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on journalism, striking dozens of deals with news organisations around the world. However, it has long opposed regulatory moves that require payments.
As efforts to make big tech platforms pay for news have spread beyond Australia, Meta has privately informed publishers that it plans to change its approach in the coming years and is unlikely to renew existing licencing agreements when they expire.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, modelled after the Australian regime, would require platforms such as Facebook and Google to reach licencing agreements with news organisations or enter into an arbitration process to determine fair compensation.
The News Media Alliance, a trade body for US publishers, however, said Facebook’s threat was “undemocratic and unbecoming”.
The NMA said in a statement, “These threats were attempted before the Australian government passed a similar law to compensate news outlets, played out unsuccessfully, and ultimately news publishers were paid.
“The Australian law resulted in countless jobs for local journalists and $140 million to news outlets, which translates to billions in the US.”