California lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to make Google and Facebook subsidize traditional media. Legislation from state Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D–Oakland) would require some digital platforms “to remit a journalism usage fee payment…equal to a percentage…of the covered platform’s advertising revenue generated during that month multiplied by the eligible digital journalism provider’s allocation share.”
Essentially, A.B. 886—dubbed the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA)—would make entities like Google and Facebook pay to link and send traffic to media websites, despite the fact that media outlets get as much if not more out of this arrangement.
This sort of “link tax” not only makes no sense but is “actively harmful to the open web” and “based on a ridiculously confused understanding of basically everything,” writes Techdirt‘s Mike Masnick. More:
In short form: if any website does not want to get traffic from Google or Facebook, they have the power to control that by using robots.txt or redirects. It’s easy.
The problem is that they want the traffic. They want it so bad that they hire “search engine optimization” experts to help them get more traffic.
The problem is that they don’t just want the traffic, they also want to get paid for that traffic.
This is backwards in so many ways. It’s basically saying that they should get paid to have other companies send them traffic.
It also breaks the most fundamental concept of the open web — the link — by saying that the government can force some websites to pay for linking to other websites (and, on top of that, force the paying websites to have to host those links, even if they don’t want to).
Everything about this is filthy and corrupt. It’s literally Rep. Buffy Wicks and others in the California legislature saying “we’re forcing companies we dislike to give money to companies we like.”
Under the CJPA’s terms, online platforms would be subject to the link tax if they have at least 50,000,000 monthly active users or subscribers in the U.S. or are owned or controlled “by a person with either…United States net annual sales or a market capitalization greater than five hundred fifty billion dollars ($550,000,000,000), adjusted annually for inflation” or “at least 1,000,000,000 worldwide monthly active users on the online platform.”
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