US Bill Would Help Smaller Publishers Negotiate With Facebook, Google

US lawmakers are reportedly preparing a bipartisan bill that would increase smaller news outlets’ bargaining power with large technology platforms such as Facebook and Google over content payments.

The move comes at a time when Facebook is in a showdown with the Australian government over the issue.

Pressure on Facebook, Google and other technology “gatekeepers” is also mounting from other directions, including draft legislation in the European Union.

The antitrust panel of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee is preparing a series of antitrust bills, said Representative Ken Buck, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Negotiation

The first bill, due in the coming weeks, would allow smaller news organisations to negotiate collectively with companies such as Facebook and Google, Buck told Reuters.

Currently such negotiations would risk attracting the attention of antitrust authorities.

Buck said the measure would be similar to one introduced in 2019 co-sponsored by panel chair Representative David Cicilline.

That bill specified that it only applied to small publishers.

David Chavern, president and chief eecutive of industry trade group the News Media Alliance, which is promoting the bill, told Reuters that the measure was aimed at countering “divide and conquer” tactics employed by tech platforms against smaller publishers.

The antitrust subcommittee issued a majority report in October detailing abuses by tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

Buck told Reuters he wanted to focus on large tech companies, which he called “the biggest threat to the free market economy”.

Ad revenues

News publishers argue that tech platforms use their content to attract viewers, but don’t pay them enough of a share of their advertising revenues.

The EU’s draft Digital Services Act (DSA) is one of a number of legislative initiatives worldwide aimed at dealing with the issue.

A law proposed in Australia would force tech platforms to pay news outlets, or to negotiate a price with arbitrators.

In response, Facebook last week blocked news outlets from sharing their content on its platform, a move that also apparently uninentionally blocked news from charities, health organisations, emergency services and government bodies.

Google, by contrast, has reached deals with news publishers to provide content to its News Showcase in France, Australia and elsewhere.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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