There’s a bill making its way through the California legislature that seems to be pissing Meta off.
The California Journalism Preservation Act would require tech platforms like Facebook and Instagram to give money to local news outlets, a move NPR described(opens in a new tab) as taxing the “advertising profits platforms make from distributing news articles.” The majority (about 70 percent) of the money collected would support California newsrooms. The argument is that Meta launched social media platforms, decimated the business models of news outlets, and helped drive the(opens in a new tab) devastating loss(opens in a new tab) of news outlets and newsroom jobs(opens in a new tab) across the country — so they should pay up.
“Every day, journalism plays an essential role in California and in local communities, and the ability of local news organizations to continue to provide the public with critical information about their communities and enabling publishers to receive fair market value for their content that is used by others will preserve and ensure the sustainability of local and diverse news outlets,” the bill reads(opens in a new tab).
Of course, this is not ideal for Meta — so much so that it says it won’t publish news on its site in a state with this kind of ban in place.
“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,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone tweeted(opens in a new tab), going on to imply that it is news outlets’ faults for putting news on the social media platform to begin with.
When NPR asked how this act would “force” Meta to remove news, Stone said: “It’s pay or remove the news. Our hand is being forced.”
While “forced” seems a bit much, it also isn’t particularly surprising. According to Axios(opens in a new tab), Meta has stopped pushing news over the past few years — probably to avoid regulation but also maybe because of its effect on various democracies(opens in a new tab), I don’t know. But Axios reports that those changes had an effect — they lowered traffic to news publishers in the U.S.
And this isn’t the first time Meta has been asked to pay and has refused. The entire country of Australia tried to do something similar and Meta responded with the exact same threat. After Australia signed a law that forced social media platforms to pay for news, Meta and Google pulled all news from their platforms and news traffic dropped(opens in a new tab). After much back-and-forth, Facebook, Google, and Australia reached a deal that did force the tech companies to make a deal with news publishers — and it generated nearly $150 million for news organizations, Bill Grueskin, a professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism who has studied the Australian law, told NPR.
It’s unclear if that same conclusion will be made in California, as the bill hasn’t even been voted on in the state Senate. But if a compromise is made, it might offer a hint as to what a profitable future for newsrooms might look like.