Bill to tax tech companies for taking local news is put on hold

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento on June 27, 2022. Wicks authored a bill this session that would require Big Tech companies such as Google and Meta to share advertising revenue with media outlets for using their news content. AP photo.

A bill that would force Facebook, Google and other companies to pay for news content they take from newspapers has been put on hold until next year.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, postponed consideration of the bill, AB886, after the measure faced heavy opposition from the tech industry.

The bill would have required digital advertising sites to pay what some called a “link tax” when they sell advertising alongside the content. In order to get the money, local newspapers and TV stations would have to meet several requirements such as investing 70% of the link tax to pay for newsroom jobs.

The bill passed in the Assembly with bipartisan support on June 1. It moved to the Senate with an initial hearing scheduled for July 11, but on July 7, Wicks office announced it would become a two-year bill.

“I’ve agreed to make AB 886 a two-year bill in order to ensure the strongest legislation possible — because getting this policy right is more important than getting it quick,” Wicks said in a news release.

The concept of taxing the tech giants and funding news outlets has started in Australia and Canada. In Australia, Facebook eliminated news on its site briefly and then agreed to comply after extracting some concessions. Canada will impose a link tax in August.