EDITORIAL: Big tech should pay for news

The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
·1 min read

Mar. 3—Facebook's recent showdown with the Australian government should accelerate momentum in the U.S. Congress for a more sensible regulatory regime for massive social media platforms.

To preserve the economic sustainability of the costly business of news gathering and dissemination, which is vital to truly functioning democracies, Australia recently adopted a law requiring Google, Facebook and others to pay news organizations for use of their product — news.

The social media companies use news to attract people to their sites and make billions of dollars on advertising tied to the process, sharing a tiny percentage of it with the companies that generate the information.

In Australia, Google objected to the law but complied with it, paying $30 million to several television news operations within a matter of weeks.

Facebook reacted by preventing its Australian users from posting any news content, and blocking them from accessing any news content from anywhere in the world. It later negotiated a more flexible agreement than that required by the law.

In the United States, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to produce a bipartisan bill that would allow small news organizations nationwide to negotiate, collectively, with the big social media platforms regarding use of locally generated news and fair compensation for it.

Such a standard is long overdue. It's bizarre that demand for news never has been greater as hundreds of the companies that produce it have gone out of business or struggle to stay in business. Local newsroom employment nationwide has declined by 50% since 2008.

Congress should pass the bill to establish that news has economic value, and that the companies and people who gather and disseminate it should be paid for it.