Facebook, Google fight bill that would help the US news industry

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""Tech News"" – Google News

Lobbyists for Facebook and Google have opposed the new US legislation designed to help ailing news publishers by jointly negotiating revenue-sharing and other deals against the tech companies.

US lawmakers unveiled the plan in Congress on Wednesday to address a perceived power imbalance between news agencies and tech giants. Critics accuse companies of using content to drive traffic and advertising revenue to their platforms without adequately compensating publishers.

The move puts pressure on tech firms, who face antitrust lawsuits and the threat of tighter regulation.

Google, which declined to comment on the proposal, launched a website Thursday claiming it was “one of the world’s greatest financial supporters of journalism” because of the advertising revenue and content royalties it makes available to the media . According to Google, the search engine sends readers to publishers’ websites 24 billion times a month.

Two tech trade groups, including Facebook and Google, are also against the bill – the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice.

“Objective reporting is a public good, but we do not believe that it is possible to finance this public good by building a cartel,” said CCIA President Matt Schruers.

The group opposed any version of the 2019 legislation and viewed the proposed joint negotiations as a way of restricting competition.

NetChoice’s Carl Szabo said his goal was to kill the law, or at least convince lawmakers to change it to limit it to smaller publications, excluding outlets like the Washington Post or the New York Times.

“I don’t think they should be making this legislation, period,” he said. “This legislation allows the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other major newspapers to make the decision to go with the smaller branches.”

Some industry watchers say the proposal could disproportionately benefit private equity firms and hedge funds that have taken up midsize and large newspaper chains. Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald are controlled by companies like Alden Global Capital and Chatham Asset Management.

The bills don’t come long after Facebook argued with Australia over how much it should pay news publishers for their content. During the struggle, Facebook darkened Australian news sites and didn’t restore them until the government made concessions.

Facebook declined to comment on the new US legislation.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said the Australian dispute highlighted the over-power of Facebook and the need to give publishers more leverage. “We have to have a level playing field and allow people to negotiate,” she said in a congressional hearing on Thursday.

The tech platforms seem to have few friends in Congress, where the Democrats have been angry about misinformation on the internet and the Conservatives argue that their views have been suppressed.

David Chavern, President and CEO of the News Media Alliance, sees collective bargaining as a crucial way of strengthening the bargaining power of small and medium-sized publishers.

“There needs to be some sort of dispute settlement mechanism” between platforms and publishers in addition to collective bargaining, Chavern said, adding that his group is flexible about what this could mean.

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