Meta Threatens to Pull Facebook and Insta News on California Tax Bill Link

Meta Threatens to Pull Facebook and Insta News on California Tax Bill Link

California’s Journalism Preservation Act would require large digital platforms to pay “journalistic usage fees.” Meta says it’s a “slush fund” to benefit big out-of-state media companies.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Facebook and Instagram will become news-free zones in California if the state passes a bill that would require Meta and other large online platforms to hand over an unspecified portion of advertising revenue to news publishers and broadcasters in the state. Golden.

Andy Stone, Meta Communications Director, posted this threat on a competing social platform(Opens in a new window)Twitter: “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 Help California Publishers”. his statement says in part.

“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.” added.

The California Journalism Preservation Act (AB 886(Opens in a new window)), introduced in February by Rep. Buffy Wicks (D.-Oakland) and most recently amended Tuesday, would require online platforms for of profit with at least 50 million US monthly active users pay a “journalism usage fee,” a percentage of their in-state advertising revenue, to be settled in arbitration, to news organizations of the qualifying state.

The text of the bill defines “online platform” as a site, application, service or digital assistant that “accesses” news “or parts thereof”. Between that and the minimum of 50 million users, it would seem to cover both widely used platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok as well as less obvious contenders like Reddit and Amazon’s Alexa.

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The bill further says that “access” means “link to, display, or present the news articles, journalistic works, or other content, or portions thereof, of the eligible digital journalism provider,” leading opponents to characterize the bill as a “link tax” (Opens in a new window) and, as such, a violation of a fundamental Internet freedom. The bill also does not distinguish between news articles published or summarized by a platform, such as on a current affairs page, and news content shared by users of a platform or by news organizations themselves.

The bill sets some requirements for news publishers or broadcasters. For example, they need “an editorial process for error correction and clarification, including a transparent process for reporting errors or complaints to the publication,” they must devote at least a quarter of their news content to covering “local current affairs, regional, national. , or International Public Interest,” and must have earned at least $100,000 in news revenue in the prior year.

Online platforms will not be able to retaliate against rated journalism providers “by refusing to index content or by changing the classification, identification, modification, branding or placement” of their content. Finally, news providers would have to spend at least 70% of the bill’s revenue on their own journalists and support staff.

Meta’s threat may seem extreme, as well as being exactly the kind of retaliation the bill would prohibit. But the company then known as Facebook did just that for a few weeks in Australia in February 2021. It responded to a comparable news fee bill by blocking users there from viewing or sharing news content (Opens in a new window ), and also blocked both the pages of Australian news sites and the shares of their work around the world, putting that country in the news equivalent of a penal colony (Opens in a new window).

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Facebook relented and restored news sharing in Australia weeks later after amending that bill, but has since made similar threats in Canada and the US more generally in response to similar bills introduced in Ottawa and Washington. (PCMag’s Instagram(Opens in a new window) and Facebook(Opens in a new window) pages would be immediate victims of Meta enforcing a no-news rule.)

Nearly a decade ago, Spain’s passage of a bill that would have forced Google to pay news sites for linking its work to Google News led the company to shut down Google News in that country.

Times are undoubtedly bad for the news industry. Giant ad platforms like Google and Facebook have left news sites scrambling for the crumbs of ad revenue, federal and state antitrust lawsuits accuse Google of ripping off news publishers by monopolizing multiple levels of the ad tech stack already hedge fund owners (Opens in a new window ) have destroyed newsrooms with indiscriminate firings.

The California News Publishers Association(Opens in a new window) and the Media Guild of the West(Opens in a new window), a union of journalists, have endorsed the California Journalism Preservation Act, though not does nothing about it. two problems

Wicks, for her part, was not impressed by Meta’s announcement. “This threat from Meta is a scare tactic that has been tried, unsuccessfully, in every country that has tried this,” she wrote. on Twitter on Wednesday (opens in a new window). “It is appalling that one of the richest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than face regulation.”

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