Meta May Block News on Facebook, Instagram in California If This Bill Passes

The California Journalism Prevention Act would allocate money from social media platforms to local news outlets

Instagram and Facebook logos on a phone in front of the Meta logo.
"Every day, journalism plays an essential role in California and in local communities," the bill says.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lawmakers in California recently advanced The California Journalism Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill that would require social media and tech platforms to pay a “journalism usage fee payment” to digital journalism providers on their service — specifically focusing on local news outlets in California. Essentially, as explained by NPR, it would “tax the advertising profits platforms make from distributing news articles” — a potential move that Meta isn’t too happy about, and one that it’s willing to block.

“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 says. 

Not only is Meta unhappy about the decision, but Meta also announced it would remove news outlets on its sites in California if the bill passed. So far the bill passed the state Assembly 46-6, but it still needs to be approved by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to become law. 

Andy Stone, a spokesman for Meta, provided a statement regarding The California Journalism Prevention Act on Twitter: “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,” the statement read. 

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When NPR asked Stone how the act would force Meta from distributing news articles, Stone said, “It’s pay or remove the news. Our hand is being forced.”

According to the bill, the platforms like Facebook and Instagram that would affected would be those who either have at least 50 million U.S. active monthly users or subscribers; or controlled or owned by someone with 550 billion net annual sales or market capitalizations, as well as controlled or owned by someone with 1 billion worldwide users on the platform. 

Meta might not be entirely messing around, either. Just this morning, the Financial Times reported that Meta would block some users in Canada’s ability to seek news on its platforms, in an effort to push back on a government bill that would force online groups to pay publishers and platforms for carrying their content. 

While we wait and see what happens with the Senate votes, we can only hope there are good — and more profitable — things to come for local newsrooms. And no matter how this ends up going, this might be the wake-up call you need to finally subscribe to your local newspaper.

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