Meta Threatens to Remove News Content from Facebook in the US


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Meta has threatened to remove news from Facebook in the U.S. if Congress passes a new media bill that would help local news publications — with photographers being affected in a potential fallout.

Meta says it would be “forced” to remove news from its U.S. platform altogether if a new law is passed which would give news outlets greater power to negotiate fees with social media companies when its content is shared on Facebook.

U.S. politicians are reportedly considering passing the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) as a way to help the struggling local news industry.

The legislation would give publishers and broadcasters greater powers to collectively bargain for a larger share of ad revenue with internet giants like Meta and Alphabet Inc.

Local news struggled during the pandemic as Meta made huge profits.

Threats

In a tweet, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone issues a threat to U.S. politicians: “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.”

Stone says the JCPA legislation “unfairly disregards any value” Facebook provides through “increased traffic and subscriptions” to news publications.

He added that the proposal failed to recognize that publishers and broadcasters put content on the platform because “it benefits their bottom line — not the other way around”.

Photographers at local news publishers and broadcasters could be at risk if Meta makes good on its threats.

According to recent figures by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “broadcasting” as well as “newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers” made up two of the four biggest employers of photographers in 2021.

Local Media is Being ‘Eaten Alive’

Meta’s threats were largely condemned by anti-monopoly groups which urged U.S. lawmakers not to cower down to Big Tech’s “bullying.”

Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project, says media outlets are being “eaten alive” by Meta.

Stoller criticized Meta’s intimidation tactics saying “Meta’s efforts to blackmail Congress prove again why this monopoly is a threat to democracies worldwide.”

The News/Media Alliance, a trade group that represents 2,000 American newspaper publishers, urged Congress to pass the JCPA and dubbed Meta’s threat to take down U.S. news as “undemocratic and unbecoming.”

“Local papers cannot afford to endure several more years of Big Tech’s use and abuse, and time to take action is dwindling,” the trade group says.

“If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.”

A similar Australian law took effect in March 2021 and led to a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in the country.

Meta later backed down following wide-scale criticism and agreed on a deal with Australian lawmakers to pay for content.

Meta also threatened to remove news in Canada after a similar law, modeled after Australia’s, to share revenue with local news organizations was proposed this year.

The JCPA is part of a larger set of laws aimed at tackling the dominance of Big Tech in the U.S.


Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.



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