Meta threatens to pull news content in California if law to pay publishers passes – The Guardian

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Proposed bill would require ‘online platforms’ to pay a fee to state news providers whose work appears on their services
Meta is threatening to remove news content from its platforms in its home state of California if the state government moves forward with legislation that would force tech companies to pay publishers.
The proposed bill would require “online platforms” like Google and Meta to pay a “journalism usage fee” to California news providers whose work appears on their services.
The bill, introduced by assembly member Buffy Wicks, is aimed at reversing a decline in the local news sector by having major tech companies share their advertising revenue stemming from news and other reported content with the media companies that publish them.
Supporters of the bill have said it would provide a “lifeline” to local news organizations that have seen their advertising revenues nosedive in the digital era. Opponents have argued the legislation would be an unprecedented mandate that violates the first amendment.
“If the Journalism Preservation Act passes, we will be forced to remove news from Facebook and Instagram,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said on Twitter on Wednesday. He described the proposal as a “slush fund” that “primarily benefits big, out-of-state media companies”.
Meta has been waging battles against similar legislation on the federal level and in several countries outside of the US.
In December, Stone said Meta would remove news from its platform altogether if the US Congress passed a bill that closely resembles the proposed California legislation.
The company is likewise threatening to withdraw news in Canada in response to proposed legislation there. Alphabet’s Google has also said it would remove links to news articles from Canadian search results if that bill passed.
The proposals are similar to a groundbreaking law that Australia passed in 2021, which also triggered threats from Facebook and Google to curtail their services.
Both companies eventually struck deals with Australian media companies after amendments to the legislation were offered, although the standoff prompted a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in Australia in the process.
Wicks, the California assemblywoman, described Meta’s statement on Wednesday as a “scare tactic”, one the company has “tried to deploy, unsuccessfully, in every country that’s attempted this”.
“It’s egregious that one of the wealthiest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than face regulation,” she added.
Wicks has argued that major social media platforms have such unrivaled market power that newsrooms are coerced to share their content with them. She said that California has lost more than 100 news organizations in the past decade, and that the bill is supported by major journalism unions such as the News Media Alliance and Media Guild of the West.
Critics of the bill have argued it is unconstitutional for requiring online platforms to post content from all news organizations. It would also reward clickbait content and limit the ability for Google and Meta to fight misinformation on their platforms as it could be seen as retaliation, said a representative from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group. Some have said the bill would mostly benefit newspaper chains.
An Australian government report released in December concluded that the law there had largely worked. It resulted in $140m in payments to news companies from Google and Facebook last year.

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