Facebook, Google come to blows against the bill that help US news industry

By Amirtha P S, Trainee Reporter
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Facebook and Google lobbyists raised their objection against new US legislation that seeks to support striving news publishers by enabling them to negotiate collectively against the tech giants in revenue sharing and other deals.

The US lawmakers brought the plan to Congress last day to address an existing power imbalance between news outlets and the tech giants. Experts accused the big companies for using content to bring traffic and ad revenue to their platforms without fairly paying the publishers. The current move is intended to pressurize the tech firms that are facing antitrust lawsuits.

Google declined to comment on the proposal and launched a website stating it is one of the world’s biggest financial supporters of journalism by the ad revenue and content licensing fees it provides to media. Further, Google stated that its search engine sends readers to publishers’ websites 24 billion times per month.

The two technology industry trade groups that Facebook and Google belong to the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice are those which are opposing the bill. The group argued against a 2019 version of the bill and views the proposed joint bargaining for controlling competition.

Carl Szabo of NetChoice stated that the goal was to persuade lawmakers to amend it so that it would be restricted to smaller publications. “I don’t think they should be doing this legislation, period. This legislation allows the Washington Post and New York Times and other big papers to call the shots for the smaller outlets,” Mr. Szabo added.

Meanwhile, experts say that the proposal could disproportionately benefit private equity firms and hedge funds that have joined with medium and large newspaper chains. Newspapers like Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald are controlled by the likes of Alden Global Capital and Chatham Asset Management.

The current bill is following Facebook’s conflict with Australia on how much to pay news publishers for their content. During which the social media giant phased out Australian news pages and only restored them once the government granted concessions. Facebook also refused to react to the new US legislation.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said the Australia dispute illustrated Facebook’s power and in its light, the publishers need to be urgently strengthened. “We have to have an even playing field and allow people to negotiate,” she stated.

Among groups that support the legislation, David Chavern, president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, sees collective bargaining as a critical way to increase the negotiating power of small and medium-size publishers.

Related: Australia passes keenly watched paid news law after final amendments

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