Meta cracked down on its home state on Wednesday, threatening to ban access to news links Facebook and Instagram in California if lawmakers pass a bill that will force them to pay news publishers for their journalism.
The proposed bill named California Journalism Preservation Actwould force social networks like Facebook and Instagram, or search engines like Google, to pay news publishers a “journalism fee” when users access articles and when they sell advertisements for news content. New publishers, in turn, would have to spend 70% of the funding received from tech companies on paying journalists and producing news. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Meta vehemently opposes the bill, saying lawmakers fundamentally misunderstand the relationship between social media and publishers. Now, Meta is threatening to pull the plug on the news entirely if it goes through like she did over the past year Australia. The move could leave California’s 39 million residents searching for information.
“If the Journalism Preservation Act is passed, we will be forced to remove news from Facebook and Instagram instead of paying into a black fund that primarily benefits large companies out of state under the guise of supporting California publishers.” , the company said in a statement. Google did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Meta disagrees with the notion that it and other social networking companies alone are responsible for the decimation of news outlets, especially local ones, over the past two decades. One in five US newspapers has done so shut down since 2004. The California News Publishers Association, meanwhile, has estimates About 52% of California residents get their news from Facebook. Big tech critics blame the meteoric rise of social media for this tectonic shift around the same time. Meta disagrees, claiming the journalism industry struggled before Facebook’s dominance in the 2010s.
“The bill fails to recognize that publishers and broadcasters put their own content on our platforms and that there was a significant consolidation in California’s local news industry over 15 years ago, well before Facebook became widespread.”
Facebook user, Meta told Gizmodo, are generally not interested in news compared to other types of content. However, Facebook controls how often news links appear in users’ news feeds. The company has reduced the proliferation of these links in recent years. Meta also disagreed with the CJPA’s assumption that their ads could be well linked to news links: “Facebook ads aren’t linked to specific content being viewed, but to user properties. Advertising revenue cannot be directly tied to journalism as content is interchangeable.”
The bill’s lead sponsor, Oakland Democratic Assembly member Buffy Wicks, denied Meta’s threat in a statement sent to Gizmodo.
“THis threat from Meta is scaremongering, which they have tried unsuccessfully to use in every country that has tried,” MP Wicks told Gizmodo. “It is outrageous that one of the richest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than submit to regulation.”
How would California’s online journalism bill work?
The California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), introduced by Oakland Rep. Buffy Wicks with support from the Californian News Publishers’ Association, would force tech companies to pay “journalism usage fees” when advertising is sold alongside local news articles that appear in a social network or search engine. The bill is modeled after similar federal legislation, although that bill failed in Congress late last year. Both bills bear a striking resemblance to legislation Canada And Australia, against which Meta has vigorously spoken out in each case. All of these bills are intended, in one way or another, to serve as digital redemption for news outlets that failed during the transition from print to digital media. The California bill passed the state assembly Judiciary Committee earlier this month by a unanimous 9-0 vote.
“As news consumption has increasingly shifted to the internet, local news outlets have been downsized and closed at an alarming rate,” says Wicks recently told The California Globe. “The dominant platforms, both search engines and social media, have such unmatched market power that newsrooms are forced to share the content they produce, while tech companies sell their advertising for almost nothing in return.” Wicks did not immediately respond to the request of Gizmodo for a comment.
Meta and Google have shown a willingness to fight back against laws that would force them to pay for messages. Both companies have said these bills misrepresent their relationship with news publishers and ultimately amount to a “violation.”link tax.” Back in 2021, Meta made good on threats to ban news access in Australia. Its social networks momentarily disrupted news access for an estimated 17 million users, putting vital services like hospitals and fire departments in the crossfire. Meta eventually brought news back to the platform, but only after lawmakers approved a watered-down version of the bill that would allow Facebook and Google to reach agreements before being forced to arbitrate with the publishers. Meta is now playing the same technology policy game with lawmakers in Canada over its proposal Online News Act.
Big tech companies aren’t the only ones opposed to the current legislation. Earlier this month, a group of local California newspapers organized as part of Free Press Action wrote a letter to the legislature To say that the bill as it stands would do more harm than good. The coalition, which includes the Times of San Diego and the Alameda Post, fears the bill could make trusted news more difficult to access and encourage clickbait articles. Also, civil rights groups like the ACLU of California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are against the CJPA.
“The CJPA would reward the worst forms of journalism and make it harder for platforms to protect users and the public from the dissemination of hateful and fraudulent content, leading to an internet ecosystem where more hate speech, misinformation, and sensationalist clickbait flourish spread on the Internet,” according to the Freie Presse’s action letter.
Update, 4:02 p.m. EST: Added statements from Rep. Wicks and Meta.