Meta said it would pull news content in California once the Journalism Preservation Act is turned into a law. The bill aims to charge companies a “journalism usage fee” when they share local news pieces on their platforms.

“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,” Andy Stone, Meta’s communications director, shared on Twitter. “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.”

Stone’s post attracted the attention of Matt Pearce, an LA Times reporter and president of the Media Guild of the West. The journalist called Meta’s decision “corporate bullying” and stressed that discussions are needed to clear disagreements. However, Pearce said that Meta clearly didn’t address this, which is reflected by its censorship threats. He also added that Meta didn’t appear in the two committee hearings but made a threat a day before an Assembly floor vote. This, as Pearce said, “is clearly designed to stoke fear, not debate.”

“The platforms have skimmed from our work, bought off publishers with ‘charitable’ grants, then act like bullies the moment they face accountability,” wrote Pearce. “CJPA is a good bill. It would restore some balance to the publisher-platform relationship. 70% of the money has to go to newsroom payroll. Publishers have to make annual public reports on how they’re spending the money and show they’re being responsible. But reasoned debate becomes impossible when bad actors like Meta act like this. It’s incredibly disappointing.”

Pearce’s comment caused Stone to reply, saying the ban is not a threat but “just a decision we will have to make that legislators should know about as they consider this bill.” Pearce ended the exchanges by saying that Meta could have at least joined a committee hearing if it really wanted to participate in the discussion. 

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