Facebook: no more linking to news if Congress lets publishers bill us for it

Congress is about to pass a law that could ultimately force websites to pay news publishers just for linking to them—an attempt to shore up the news business by exempting it from antitrust law and establishing a government-approved content cartel. Facebook, for its part, says it will simply not allow links to news sites anymore if this comes to pass.

Facebook is an appalling company that has misled, manipulated and defrauded news publishers a dozen times over—but it's right about this.

Trying to address the local news crisis by making websites pay every time someone links to their work—the endgame of this proposed antitrust exemption for publishers—represents a misreading of the technical and economic dynamics at work. It will eat major platforms' profits, sure, but also permanently institutionalize their relationship with news media. No-one wants this except major news publishers, not even Facebook, which for all its faults is now well into the Finding Out stage of fucking around with News.

At best, it invites platforms and the cartel to cut deals and everyone else (from small outlinking sites 🥳 to smaller publishers) gets rinsed—which seems to be the emerging outcome in the EU, which likes nothing better than a stable, predictable racket that benefits yet binds incumbents. At worst, the publishers and politicians who thought they were about to become landlords find themselves being evicted—and begging to be let back into the house.