Meta threatens to remove news from Facebook if US Congress passes ‘ill-considered’ journalism bill

Facebook’s parent company Meta has threatened to ban news from the social media platform if the US Congress passes a bill that could make it easier for news outlets to negotiate revenue with tech firms.

“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,” Meta’s head of policy communications Andy Stone tweeted on Tuesday.

The bill seeks to make it easier for news organisations to negotiate with Big Tech companies like Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Meta.

Publishers have argued that such companies squeeze news organisations out of digital ad revenue and exert undue control over who can see their journalism.

Several countries, including Canada and Australia, have started new policy deliberations to support news outlets against Facebook and Google, which dominate the advertising space.

The US Congress media bill could enable news outlets to negotiate with tech firms to pay for news on their platforms – a move Facebook has fiercely opposed.

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However, Mr Stone said the bill does not recognise that news publishers put content on Facebook because “it benefits their bottom line – not the other way around”.

“Put simply: the government creating a cartel-like entity which requires one private company to subsidise other private entities is a terrible precedent for all American businesses,” he said.

But precedent showed a similar ban had drawn sharp condemnation.

Meta had banned Australian news from its platform in February last year in protest against a law that would require it to negotiate with publishers and compensate them for using their news.

The company reversed the measure after massive outrage brought it to the negotiating table with the government, with which it managed to reach a consensus.

Tech firms like Alphabet and Meta, after talks with news outlets, signed several deals to compensate them for content after Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code took effect in March 2021.

Facebook has also threatened to remove news in Canada after a similar law – modeled after Australia’s – to share revenue with local news organisations was proposed this year.