Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is threatening to pull news content from its sites in California if the state passes a bill that would require tech companies to pay media organizations for their content.
The California Journalism Preservation Act would require tech giants like Meta and Google to pay a "journalism usage fee" for news content that appears on their platforms. It would also mandate news organizations to invest 70% of their revenue from those fees into reporter salaries.
California lawmakers claim the bill is intended to save local news agencies that have seen declines in revenue and traffic on their sites, as most Americans consume their news through social media. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks of Oakland, who authored the bill, called Meta's response a "scare tactic" that seeks to avoid accountability.
"It is egregious that one of the wealthiest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than face regulation," Wicks said on Twitter.
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However, Meta claims the bill would mostly 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 California's local news industry came over 15 years ago, well before Facebook was widely used," Meta spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement. "It is disappointing that California lawmakers appear to be prioritizing 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 take down news is undemocratic and unbecoming," NMA said in a statement. "We have seen in their playbook before and they have been publicly admonished 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, big tech companies eventually reached an agreement and the law resulted in $140 million in payments from Google and Meta last year. U.S. lawmakers have pushed for similar legislation, but failed to pass a bill in March that would've allowed news companies to negotiate advertising rates with tech giants.
California's bill has already cleared an important committee hearing. If it makes its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk and is passed into law, Meta said it has no choice but to remove news content from its platforms in the state.
"We will be forced to remove news from Facebook and Instagram rather than pay into a slush fund that primarily benefits big, out-of-state media companies under the guise of aiding California publishers," Stone said.
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