California lawmakers want Google and Facebook to pay publishers for news content — the latest sign of public discontent over the growing power of tech giants.
Buffy Wicks, a state lawmaker representing Oakland, has introduced a bill that would require tech firms that profit from news content to pay media outlets a “journalism usage fee” when they sell advertising.
The proposed legislation would also require content publishers to invest 70% of the proceeds from the fee in journalism jobs.
“Big Tech has become the de facto gatekeeper of journalism and is using its dominance to set rules for how news content is displayed, prioritized and monetized,” Emily Charrier, who heads the California News Publishers Association, told the Los Angeles Times.
“Our members are the sources of that journalism, and they deserve to be paid fair market value for news they originate.”
The Post has sought comment from Google and from Facebook’s parent company, Meta.
In December, Meta threatened to remove news content from its platform entirely if Congress approved a similar measure that would require tech firms to pay news outlets for their material.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, if passed, would allow news companies to collectively negotiate with social platforms over the terms on which their material appears on their sites.
Meta said it would rather pull news from its platforms than “submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard the value we provide to news outlets.”
The value, Meta said in a statement tweeted by spokesman Andy Stone, includes “increased traffic and subscriptions.”
In July, Meta told news outlets that it would no longer pay them for content that is run on the site’s News Tab.
The move was part of an overall shift in strategy whereby Facebook would de-emphasize news in favor of more creative initiatives.
In February 2021, Meta signed agreements with three Australian news publishers just a day after the country’s parliament passed a law requiring digital companies to pay for news.
The move came after Meta briefly banned Australian news sites from Facebook in protest of the legislation.
Last April, Canada said it would consider a bill forcing tech companies to pay local news publishers for content.
Meta earlier this month vowed to block all news content from its Canadian users if lawmakers in Ottawa passed the “Online News Act” in its current form.
“A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable,” a Meta spokesperson told Reuters when asked about the company’s threat.
Last year, Google parent Alphabet signed deals with 300 publishers throughout Europe that would see the tech giant pay news sites for displaying snippets of reporters’ work on search results.
In 2021, Google signed agreements with some 120 British publications as part of a plan to pay news outlets for content.
In January, the Biden administration and eight states filed a lawsuit seeking to force Google to sell its ad manager suite, claiming that the company stifled competition.
The case is one of two Justice Department antitrust actions against Google.
The US magistrate judge overseeing the case ruled last week on an expedited schedule for the lawsuit.
The other, filed in October 2020 and challenging Google’s search business, is set for a trial in Washington, DC, federal court in September.
Google has denied the claims in both cases.
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