Congress dropped a controversial media bill which saw Facebook threaten to ax news in the US if the act passed, report says




Mark Zuckerberg 2020
Mark Zuckerberg 2020  
  • Congress excluded a controversial media bill from the National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday.

  • The bill would have forced online platforms like Facebook to pay for news content from publishers.

  • Facebook on Monday threatened to ax news from its platforms in the US if the bill passed.

Congress excluded a controversial media bill from the National Defense Authorization Act after Facebook threatened to ax news in the US, the Washington Post reported.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) was left out of Congress' defense spending bill for 2023, with no mention of it in the bill's text, which was released on Tuesday. Lawmakers were thinking about including the JCPA in the bill, anonymous sources told the Post.

The JCPA was introduced by senator Amy Klobuchar with bipartisan support to give publishers and broadcasters negotiating power over how their news content is distributed on online platforms like Facebook and Google. It would require social media firms to pay publishers for their news content.

The bill was initially approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September but received intense opposition from Meta. Andy Stone, Meta's policy communications director released a searing statement on Monday against the JCPA warning that if the "ill-considered journalism bill," passed then Meta would be "forced to consider removing news from our platform altogether."

The statement said: "The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act fails to recognize the key fact: publishers and broadcasters put their content on our platform themselves because it benefits their bottom line - not the other way round.

"No company should be forced to pay for content other users don't want to see and that's not a meaningful source of revenue."

Consumer advocacy groups and think tanks including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge published an open letter on Monday arguing against the JCPA, because it could increase "disinformation, hate speech, and harassment." The letter outlined that the bill could allow journalism providers to sue online platforms for reducing reach and intimidate them into not moderating offensive content.

Meta temporarily banned news in Australia in 2021 after a similar law was proposed requiring social media platforms to pay journalism outlets for news content. The ban prevented Australian users from seeing, sharing, or interacting with any kind of news content on the platform.

Meta eventually reversed the ban after the conditions of the bill were eased, and agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to distribute its content across Facebook.

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