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THANKS FOR NOTHING: Congress Kills Bill That Would’ve Forced Platforms to Pay for Local News

December 7, 2022

What do I say here as a publisher? Many many expletives come to mind, aimed at Facebook and Google and Congress.

(WAPO) Lawmakers on Tuesday ended what had been an effort to allow media organizations to band together to negotiate revenue sharing deals with tech giants, leaving the provisions out of a massive spending bill amid intense pushback from industry and advocacy groups.

The measure, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), was removed from Congress’s sprawling defense-spending legislation. 

The move came a day after Facebook said it would “consider removing news from our platform” if lawmakers moved ahead with the measure, a threat that publisher groups denounced.

How is Facebook allowed that much power?

The proposal would have created a carve-out in antitrust law allowing news publishers and broadcasters to collectively push for more favorable distribution terms for their content online.

The effort, led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), had been billed by its proponents as a temporary lifeline for reeling news publications whose advertising revenue has plummeted over the past decade amid rapid growth of digital ad titans Google and Facebook.

“Continually allowing the big tech companies to dominate policy decisions in Washington is no longer a viable option when it comes to news compensation, consumer and privacy rights, or the online marketplace.” Klobuchar said in a statement Wednesday after the defense bill was released. “We must get this done.”

A slew of consumer advocacy groups and think tanks had also lined up against the measure, arguing in a letter Monday that it could force tech platforms to carry extreme or harmful content and that it would disproportionately benefit large media conglomerates.

Klobuchar disputed those criticisms in an interview this year, saying smaller publishers would get a seat at the table in the discussions.

“I know the small newspapers in my state are huge fans of this bill,” she told The Washington Post. “I think that what this does is allow for the potential that content is going to be paid for appropriately and that journalists’ work will be compensated for instead of stolen.”

The bill had been endorsed by numerous media organizations, including trade groups like the News Media Alliance, newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, broadcast giants including the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp. and conservative digital outlets like the Daily Caller.

Meta’s threat followed a familiar playbook for the giant, which last year blocked news in Australia in response to similar legislation aimed at forcing tech companies to pay publishers for content. The company issued the same warning last month in response to parallel efforts in Canada.

The U.S. push came as broader efforts to rein in the tech giants over allegations of anti-competitive conduct have stalled in Congress, with time ticking away in its legislative session.