Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is threatening to remove news content from its California sites if the state passes a bill that would force tech companies to pay media organizations for their content.
California’s Journalism Preservation Act would require tech giants like Meta and Google to pay a “journalistic usage fee” for news content that appears on their platforms. It would also force news organizations to spend 70% of their revenue from those fees on reporters’ salaries.
California lawmakers say the bill is aimed at saving local news agencies that have seen declines in revenue and traffic to their sites as most Americans consume their news through social media. . Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks of Oakland, who authored the bill, called Meta’s response a “scare tactic” aimed at avoiding accountability.
“It is appalling that one of the richest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than face regulation.” Wicks said on Twitter.
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However, Meta claims that the bill would primarily benefit large media corporations rather than local news outlets.
“The bill fails to recognize that publishers and broadcasters put their content on our platform themselves and that substantial consolidation in the local California news industry occurred 15 years ago, long before Facebook was widely used.” said Andy Stone, a spokesman for Meta. he said in a statement. “It is disappointing that California legislators appear to prioritize the best interests of national and international media companies over their own constituents.”
The bill has garnered support from some of California’s largest media unions, including the California News Publishers Association (CNPA) and the News/Media Alliance (NMA).
“Meta’s threat to remove the news is undemocratic and improper,” the NMA said in a statement. “We’ve seen it in their playbook before and they’ve been publicly reprimanded in other countries for this behavior.”
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Australia passed a similar law in 2021. While it led to a brief shutdown of Australian news on Facebook, the big tech companies eventually settled, and the law resulted in payments of $140 million from Google and Meta last year. US lawmakers have pushed for similar legislation, but failed to pass a bill in March that would have allowed news companies to negotiate advertising rates with tech giants.
The California bill has already gone through a major committee hearing. If it makes it to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk and becomes law, Meta said he has no choice but to remove news content from his platforms in the state.
“We will be forced to remove news from Facebook and Instagram instead of paying a slush fund that primarily benefits large out-of-state media companies under the guise of helping California publishers,” Stone said.
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