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Mark Zuckerberg at an appearance in the US Congress in 2022: The company does not want to be cashed in

Photo: Erin Scott / REUTERS

The dispute over the payment of journalistic content is now also reaching Silicon Valley: With the "Journalism Preservation Act", Californian lawmakers want to force digital companies to pay publishers for the news linked on digital platforms. Meta is now threatening to block messages on Facebook and Instagram.

Company spokesman Andy Stone made an unusually harsh statement on Twitter. In it, he accuses lawmakers of not writing a media funding law, but of creating a "slush fund", i.e. a kind of hidden fund from which large media groups could help themselves at the expense of Meta without local media benefiting from it. The law is expected to be passed by September and could serve as a template for a nationwide regulation.

The threat to block news on its own platforms has become part of the company's standard repertoire when it comes to laws to make content liable for social media companies, most recently in Canada. Plans by the US Congress for a similar law were also met with a boycott threat.

The legislative plans are spurred on by the approach in Australia. At the beginning of 2021, Facebook had already blocked news content, but then agreed with the Australian government and the media groups there to pay millions, but without acknowledging an obligation to pay. As a result, the Australian Media Promotion Act came into force, but was not applied.

At a hearing in Canada in May, Meta's chief lobbyist Nick Clegg reiterated the company's position: "The truth is that our users don't come to us for the news." Less than three percent of the content shared on Facebook and Instagram concerns messages. Rather, publishers would benefit from having their content shared on Facebook.