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Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Meta Threatens To Halt All News In California if ‘Journalism Usage Fee’ Passes

Meta will be forced to remove news rather than pay into ‘a slush fund that primarily benefits big, out-of-state media companies’

By Evan Symon, June 1, 2023 2:30 am

Meta, the parent company of social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, threatened to remove all news content in California on Wednesday should a bill imposing “journalism usage fees” pass.

The focal point of Meta’s concern is Assembly Bill 886 by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), which would specifically have digital advertising companies, such as Google or Facebook, pay for content they use from media outlets. The bill, also known as the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), would pay a “journalism usage fee” to media outlet owners each time local news articles are used by the companies that also sell advertising along with it. Publishers would receive the funds and would then need to invest at least 70% back into funding journalism jobs, such as paying journalists or creating new journalism positions.

Wicks wrote the bill to compensate news outlets, specifically local news outlets, whose stories had been picked up by giants such as Google or Meta, but with the advertising going straight to them rather than back down to the original publishers. As newspaper advertising revenues are down 66%, with media outlet employees cut by 44%, lawmakers voted for the bill to protect media outlets in the changing market, as  it is projected that regular online advertising will not make up for the loss of print advertising for the foreseeable future.

“As news consumption has moved online, community news outlets have been downsized and closing at an alarming rate,” noted Assemblywoman Wicks earlier this month. “The dominant type platforms, both search engines and social networks, have such unrivaled market power that newsrooms are coerced to share the content they produce, which tech companies sell advertising against for almost no compensation in return.”

While the bill has advanced in the Assembly, companies like Google and Meta have been dead set against the bill, seeing the bill as only benefiting larger, non-California-based companies rather than smaller California publishers, as well as the bill costing these companies millions of dollars. While no figure has been specifically given, the costs are expected to be massive. So much so that, on Wednesday, Meta announced that they could block off all news on their social media sites in California if AB 886 passes.

“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,” said Meta spokesman Andy Stone in a Tweet. “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. It is disappointing that California lawmakers appear to be prioritizing the best interests of national and international media companies over their own constituents.”

Reaction came in swiftly Wednesday. “This threat from Meta is a scare tactic that they’ve tried to deploy, unsuccessfully, in every country that’s attempted this,” Assemblywoman Wicks said in a statement. “It is egregious that one of the wealthiest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than face regulation.”

Other experts noted that the bill would only need to be slightly altered to quash the criticism that funds would only benefit larger outlets.

“Meta is using this as an argument, and all Wicks needs to do is amend the bill to have all outlets, especially local ones, be covered evenly,” explained online advertising consultant Darren Adams to the Globe on Wednesday. “She does that, specifically include smaller outlets, even those with strong political leanings, and Meta won’t have a leg to stand on besides money. Because don’t be fooled here. It all boils down to money, and Meta does not want to pay. They’d rather stop all news in California before they pay. You can tell they’re in a corner.”

AB 886 is expected to be heard again in the legislature soon.

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6 thoughts on “Meta Threatens To Halt All News In California if ‘Journalism Usage Fee’ Passes

  1. Well, it can’t be any worse than it is. There is theft of content AND theft of customer data by Big Data, and their is a slim chance this idea might incentivize reporters to actually get off their iPads and report.
    Either way, the truth will continue to be buried, because that is what “Big News” has always done.

  2. Maybe it would be a good thing if Meta halted all “news” content in California if creepy Democrat Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks’ Assembly Bill 886 “journalism usage fees” pass? Most of the “news” content from the legacy media is deep-state propaganda with a leftist slant?

  3. AB 886 still stinks and all the players mentioned (media, Big Tech, and legislators such as Asm Buffy Wicks) still stink even as we continue to not know exactly who or what is motivating this legislation. I like TJ’s explanation last time this came up that media conglomerates and whoever backs them are behind it and pushing it.

    All I know is that my “local newspaper,” which is under the umbrella of the Southern California News Group consolidation, has been whining and crying poor for a couple of decades that they can’t make money from their online presence. At one point they wanted the govt to subsidize them. Right, you and Pravda!

    Meanwhile, the elephant in the room has always been their inadequate and/or biased news coverage, often done by reporters who, for example, write puff pieces for Dems in hopes of one day getting cushy jobs as legislative aides. This elephant in the room of poor news coverage has never been addressed. For such online newspapers to receive injections of cash from Big Tech is not going to improve the awful CA local newspaper coverage and will probably only make it worse.

    This is like BART bureaucrats conveniently ignoring that CRIME and FILTH are the two main reasons for crashing ridership and thus never address it. Meanwhile Sen Scott Wiener annoyingly agitates for a $5.15 BILLION public transportation subsidy. It’s completely ridiculous but when has that ever stopped these people?
    NO on AB 886.

  4. Honestly, people shouldn’t be reading news off of Facebook anyway. Better to go to a true journalism site.

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