Big Tech news publishing bill could hitch ride on must-pass defense legislation

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Krasnoyarsk, Russia – June 13, 2011: Facebook main webpage on Google Chrome browser on LCD screen (iStock)

Big Tech news publishing bill could hitch ride on must-pass defense legislation

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Lawmakers are considering an amendment to Congress’s must-pass defense bill that would force Big Tech firms to pay news outlets for their content, prompting new threats from Facebook’s parent company that it would remove news from its platform altogether if the legislation passes.

Introduced last year with bipartisan support, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would create a four-year exemption under antitrust law that would allow news outlets to collectively bargain against social media platforms for a larger share of ad revenue in exchange for their news content. It would also require tech firms to negotiate payout terms “in good faith” with news publishers for distributing their content.

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If they are unable to come to an agreement, the legislation allows news publishers to demand third-party arbitration. The proposal resembles a law in Australia that passed last year despite pushback from Facebook and Google. The bill was first introduced in 2019 and was reintroduced in 2021. Even though the bill has bipartisan support, the legislation never was able to pass out of the House’s Judiciary Committee.

Meta issued a public warning following reports that Congress is considering attaching the bill to the national defense bill. Andy Stone, Meta’s head of policy communications, said on Twitter that if Congress passes the “ill-considered journalism bill,” Meta “will be forced to consider removing news from our platform altogether.”

https://twitter.com/andymstone/status/1599857809126195201?s=20&t=VIzzkY0q6z5PEPCUlrV9XQ

The company made similar threats to block news in Canada and Australia when comparable laws were proposed. Meta briefly suspended the ability to view and share news stories on its platforms in Australia and then later changed course after reaching a compromise.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), a co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), said he is not discouraged by the recent threats from Meta and intends to move forward.

“A good bill defines itself through its enemies. If you are making the right people mad, you’re generally doing the right thing,” Kennedy said to the Washington Examiner.

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The National Defense Authorization Act needs to pass by the end of the year to keep the military funded, and attaching the JCPA to the legislation would make it much more likely to pass. The JCPA advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this fall with bipartisan support, but seven Republicans, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), voted against advancing it.

“I generally have opposition to the bill overall,” Tillis said on Tuesday. “I do think it has a good chance of passing in something like the NDAA, but otherwise, I don’t think it would.”

Tech groups Computer and Communications Industry and NetChoice both launched ad campaigns attacking the bill this week, saying it could force Big Tech firms to pay outlets that publish misinformation.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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