New California law targeting Facebook could backfire spectacularly

This isn't going to work out well.

We don’t have to like it, but these days most people get their news via social media. They scroll Facebook or Twitter or whatever and then click on the news stories their friends or the people they follow share.

In fact, social media is a key part of most businesses’ strategies, including news organizations. Yet in California, lawmakers there want to make companies like Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, pay news organizations for the content that gets posted.

Let’s just say Meta was not amused. The Hill reports

Facebook parent company Meta is threatening to remove news content on its platforms Instagram and Facebook in California if the state legislature passes a new proposal that would make tech companies pay publishers for news content. 

‘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,’ reads a statement posted to Twitter by Meta spokesperson Andy Stone.

‘It is egregious that one of the wealthiest companies in the world would rather silence journalists than face regulation,’ [California Assemblywoman Buffy] Wicks said.

What’s truly egregious is the idea that Meta is somehow obligated to pay for content if they don’t want to, or that an elected official would liken it to the censorship of journalists.

Meta’s position is pretty reasonable. They’re saying that if they’re forced to pay for the content, they’ll simply prohibit that content to avoid having to spend money they don’t want to spend. It’s no different than skipping a once-free sample in the grocery store that now wants to charge you a buck.

On the contrary, Wicks’s position seems to be anything but reasonable.

Saying Meta–who has their fair share of issues, don’t get me wrong–is somehow trying to “silence journalists” simply by not posting their content is extremely bizarre to me.

The journalists are still free to say what they want to say. People are still free to watch or read it. Meta is basically saying it is free to decline to pay for the privilege of posting it.

Especially since many Democrats argued not that long ago that social media companies like Meta were within their rights to bar certain content from their platform if they so desired. What’s more, they were right. A private website can decide what content it wishes to post or not, at least under the eyes of the law.

Whether they should or not is a different matter. People can and should be permitted a certain amount of leeway in matters of speech, after all, but that doesn’t mean private digital platforms should be forced to allow it.

This is especially true when it’s a matter of content that they’ll have to pay for, which brings us to the crux of the issue for me.

The truth of the matter is that what we’re looking at here isn’t about anything but keeping politicians’ buddies in the media paid. It’s protectionism for the media, plain and simple. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are expected to take their profits–profits that far outstrip what the news media is making in California, apparently–and use them to prop up an industry that is struggling.

That’s what’s truly “egregious.”

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Tom Knighton
Tom Knighton
Tom Knighton is a Navy veteran, a former newspaperman, a novelist, and a lifetime shooter who has increasingly focused on Second Amendment issues. He lives with his family in Southwest Georgia.