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Meta says it will block news in California if the bill becomes law

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta Platforms Inc., left, arrives at federal court in San Jose, California, USA, on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.

David Pablo Morris | Mayor Bloomberg | fake images

California lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would require Big Tech platforms to pay publishers for the news they feature, just a day after Meta threatened to remove news from Facebook and Instagram if the bill passes. bill.

The California Journalism Preservation Act, which passed the state Assembly 46-6, has yet to pass the state Senate and be signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to become law. But if it goes that far, it could create new challenges for technology platforms and possibly change the landscape of what information is available on social networking sites in California compared to the rest of the country.

“If the Journalism Preservation Act passes, we will be forced to remove news from Facebook and Instagram, instead of paying into a slush fund that primarily benefits large out-of-state media companies under the guise of helping to publishers in California,” the Meta spokesperson said. Andy Stone said in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday. “The bill fails to recognize that publishers and broadcasters put their content on our platform themselves and that substantial consolidation in California’s local news industry occurred 15 years ago, long before Facebook was widely used.”

According to the text of the bill available on the state government website, the California law would require online platforms with at least 50 million monthly active users in the US, one billion active users worldwide. worldwide, or annual net sales in the US pay a “usage fee” to eligible digital journalism providers who so desire. Payments would be calculated based on the number of news products from each outlet that the platform displayed or linked to. The parties would use an arbitration process to determine the percentage of the platform’s advertising revenue that would offset the usage fee.

Cámara del Progreso, a trade group that counts Meta among its sponsors, criticized the bill’s progress. Coalition executive director Adam Kovacevich said in a statement that “the CPJA is riddled with holes” and that the bill “includes a questionable arbitration process and supports hedge funds known for cutting news staff in instead of hiring journalists.

“It’s sad that the Assembly is passing the responsibility to the Senate instead of fixing the problems with the bill,” he added.

News/Media Alliance, which represents more than 2,000 media organizations, applauded the Assembly’s vote.

“We are very encouraged to see this progress at the state level, which shows that Americans understand the importance and value of journalism in keeping their communities safe and informed and holding those in power accountable,” said the president and News/Media Alliance Executive Director Danielle Coffey. she said in a statement. “We hope that the CJPA will go to the Senate and work there with lawmakers to pass the CJPA and restore fairness and balance to the marketplace.”

The California bill has similar goals to the federal legislation that a bipartisan group of lawmakers tried to promote last year. Tech companies also took issue with that bill, the Journalism Preservation and Competition Act, which would create a temporary safe harbor from antitrust laws for news publishers to collectively negotiate revenue-sharing terms with the tech giants they market. their products.

The current conflict between Meta and California lawmakers is reminiscent of a similar fight in Australia in 2021, when the government sought to require online platforms to pay for news content. Days after restricting news pages in the country, Facebook reached an agreement with the government that backtracked on the company’s policy. Facebook said at the time that the government “agreed to a number of changes and assurances that address our main concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”

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