(The Hill) – Facebook parent company Meta is threatening to remove news content on its platforms Instagram and Facebook in California if the state legislature passes a new proposal that would make tech companies pay publishers for news content.
“If the Journalism Preservation Act passes, 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,” reads a statement posted to Twitter by Meta spokesperson Andy Stone.
Meta’s statement says the California bill, which is now before the state Assembly, “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.”
The bill would require covered platforms to pay a “journalism usage fee” for content from local outlets — and require publishers to devote 70 percent of the proceeds from these fees to creating and maintaining journalism jobs in California.
“It is disappointing that California lawmakers appear to be prioritizing the best interests of national and international media companies over their own constituents,” the Meta statement concludes.
California state Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D), who sponsored the bill, said Meta’s threat is “a scare tactic that they’ve tried to deploy, unsuccessfully, in every country that’s attempted this.”
Meta made a similar threat last year after lawmakers introduced to Congress the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would also have required tech companies to pay news outlets for their material. The social media giant has also reportedly moved to block news content in Australia and Canada over similar proposals.
“It is egregious that one of the wealthiest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than face regulation,” Wicks said.
The nonprofit News Media Alliance said in a statement that Meta’s threat is “undemocratic and unbecoming.”