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Meta threatens to block news in Calif. over push to pay publishers

Facebook parent Meta threatened to remove all news content in California ahead of a key vote by state lawmakers Thursday on whether to advance a bill requiring Big Tech firms to pay media outlets.

The California Journalism Preservation Act would require “online platforms” to fork over a “journalism usage fee” to outlets whose content appears on their sites.

“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 spokesman Andy Stone said late Wednesday.

“It is disappointing that California lawmakers appear to be prioritizing the best interests of national and international media companies over their own constituents,” Stone added.

California’s bill is slated for an initial vote in the California assembly on Thursday that could advance the legislation to the state Senate — with a final vote expected later this year.

The fee would be based on ad revenue and outlets would be required to use at least 70% of the proceeds to support their newsrooms.

Stone later told the Wall Street Journal that Meta’s action, if pursued, would mean that users on Facebook and Instagram would be unable to read or share articles on either platform.

It was the first time billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s company has addressed California’s initiative, but Meta has made previous warnings to other countries considering similar measures.

The bill’s sponsor, California state assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, blasted Meta over the “scare tactic.”.

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

The social media giant has been under mounting pressure since 2021, when Australia enacted a law requiring tech firms to reach content deals with publishers.

Meta staunchly opposed the Australia law and briefly blocked Facebook news content in the country, but later relented after talks with lawmakers.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta has repeatedly threatened to pull news content over payment bills.

Meta argues the California bill would mostly benefit large publishers.
David G. McIntyre

Earlier this month, executives from Meta and Big Tech rival Google said they would pull news content in Canada if the country passed proposed legislation requiring payments to publishers.

Meta delivered a similar warning last December following reports that Congress was mulling similar legislation.

The federal measure, which would limit the size of publishers eligible to negotiate content deals, is still under consideration.

With Post wires

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