Illinois Weighs Tech Payment Law: Would Facebook Block Local News Like in Canada?

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Springfield, IL – Illinois lawmakers are currently debating a bill that could reshape the relationship between tech giants like Facebook and local news outlets. Senate Bill 3591, if passed, would require major tech companies to compensate local news publishers for sharing their content. This legislative effort is similar to recent developments in Canada, where a comparable law has already been implemented with notable consequences.

In Canada, the Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18, was introduced to support struggling local journalism by mandating that tech platforms pay for news content. The law came into effect last year, and its impact was swiftly felt. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, responded by blocking news links on its platforms rather than paying the mandated fees. According to a BBC report, this action led to a dramatic 90% drop in the visibility of Canadian news on Facebook. The resulting decline in reach has significantly harmed local news outlets, which rely heavily on social media to disseminate their stories and engage with readers.

The proposed bill has already sparked a heated debate. Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, expressed serious concerns about the potential unintended consequences of the legislation. “I would think the logical result of legislation like this would be Facebook simply turning off news links in Illinois,” Curran said.

The Canadian experience serves as a cautionary tale for Illinois. When Meta blocked news content in Canada, the move not only reduced the audience for local news but also disrupted the flow of information to the public. Critics of the Illinois bill fear a similar outcome. Opponents, including TechNet and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, argue that the legislation could lead to reduced engagement with news content, ultimately harming the very industry it aims to protect.

Despite these concerns, supporters of the bill, such as the News Media Alliance and the Local Journalism Task Force, maintain that action is necessary to address the financial struggles of local newsrooms. They argue that without such measures, local journalism could continue to decline, leaving communities without reliable news sources.

In Canada, the federal government managed to negotiate with Google to ensure payments to Canadian news outlets, totaling an estimated $75 million annually. However, Meta’s resistance highlights the complexities and potential challenges of implementing such laws. The situation remains fluid, with ongoing debates about the best way to support journalism in the digital age.

As Illinois navigates its own version of the law, the outcomes in Canada provide both a roadmap and a warning, potentially opening the door for misinformation to overrun residents while providing a final axe to some already struggling local news organizations.

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