by Eric Hunter
The First Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to grant protection against any law prohibiting freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Freedom of speech and press is not only a constitutional right but it’s a God given human right granted by universal law. Violation of this right is the first sign that you are living in a totalitarian state.
The U.S. government claims to be a democracy, but as Malcolm X says, “All we’ve seen is hypocrisy.” When we examine the Constitution we can see the contradictions and confront them, which causes a necessary conflict that creates opportunities for constructive change. California state officials are considering passing legislation that involves journalism and social media, and all Black people should be paying close attention to it.
The California Journalism Preservation Act (AB 886), authored by Assembly Member Buffy Wicks, passed 46-6. Its aim is to tax the advertising profits that social media platforms make from distributing news articles and funnel money from the tech platforms to media organizations.
It enables 70% of the money collected from the so-called “usage fee” to support California news outlets. Facebook and Instagram threatened to block all news articles in California if state lawmakers pass the bill. AB 886 would require social media companies such as Meta, Google, Twitter and others to pay a percentage of their advertising revenue as a “journalism usage fee” to news organizations producing content that is shared on the platform.
Assembly Member Buffy Wicks responded, “Facebook’s scare tactics won’t work.” She states that AB 886 only applies to companies with the biggest and most profitable platforms that have a market capacity of more than $550 billion. The bill is co-sponsored by the California News Publishers Association, of which the Sacramento Bee and other McClatchy California newspapers are members. Multiple organizations such as the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the California Chamber of Commerce, CalMatters and Facebook’s parent company Meta oppose the bill.
A tech industry-funded group, Chamber of Progress, did a study using traffic estimates from
Similarweb to find out which news outlets would receive the most money from this measure.
The statistics show that the corporate backed media outlets such as Fox News, the New York
Post and Newsmax will benefit the most from this bill, receiving four times more in revenue
than major California news organizations, 151 times more than Latino news outlets in the state, 643 times more than newspapers located in the state’s worst news deserts and 844 times as much as California Black news outlets.
A document written by the Black Liberation journalist Samuel Cornish in 1827 was referenced in the bill. The reference expressed the need for Black people to build our own platforms to
advocate for our own rights, express our own grievances and challenge racist discrimination.
Samuel Cornish was editor of Freedom’s Journal, the first Black-owned and operated newspaper in the United States. The message in this reference is clear and concise.
Black independent media platforms must do for self and control the narrative. We can utilize
legislation that works in our favor, but we can’t depend on that alone. We can’t expect the state sponsored corporate media giants to protect the best interests of the Black community, and we can’t expect social media tech tycoons to protect our best interests either. As long as there is paper and ink and the people can speak, we can teach each other and make each other think.
Freedom of speech means nothing if you don’t use your speech to get free! The beautiful story of Black perseverance can never be banned. We will not be stopped and we will not be silenced.
Journalist Eric Hunter (E Da Ref), an Oakland native, is Minister of Public Relations for the Black Riders Liberation Party and Co-Editor of African Intercommunal News Service. He writes for Black New World Media and the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau headed by JR Valrey. Hunter can be reached at email@example.com.