Senate Bill Could Help News Organizations Fight Big Tech’s Power
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, preparing it for an eventual vote in the full Senate.
The bill, ostensibly designed to help news organizations negotiate fairer terms with online platforms that share their content, such as social media companies, passed by a 15-7 vote. It was introduced last year by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both houses of Congress, including Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Republican Representative Ken Buck of Colorado.
As written, the bill would effectively allow off-network news outlets with fewer than 1,500 full-time employees to escape antitrust law by letting them form a group with other news outlets to bargain. prices and other licensing terms for their content.
In a statement Thursday, Klobuchar said“Local news is facing an existential crisis, with plummeting advertising revenue, newspapers shutting down and many rural communities becoming ‘information deserts’ without access to local news.”
She added: “To preserve strong and independent journalism, we must ensure that news organizations are able to negotiate on an equal footing with the online platforms that dominate news distribution and digital advertising.
The bill’s passage through the Judiciary Committee has seemed uncertain in recent weeks, primarily due to opposition from Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who tried to attach an amendment it would negate the antitrust exemption if content moderation is mentioned either by the social media companies or the bargaining group representing the news outlets.
Republicans have falsely claimed that content moderation policies unfairly target conservatives, even though the policies themselves only reference topics such as hate and abusive speech.
Nonetheless, Cruz and Klobuchar reportedly reached an agreement to push the bill out of committee with language saying the negotiations are “solely to reach an agreement regarding pricing, terms and conditions.” Cross told the Washington Times that he agreed with Klobuchar that Big Tech benefits from an “unfair system” that allows companies to spread stories without compensating content creators.
A number of tech industry groups and some activist organizations slammed the bill in a letter to lawmakers earlier this month, arguing that it could unfairly force platforms to deliver content, including material considered extreme. The coalition also says it is unacceptable for platforms to have to pay for content that people can share for free on their sites.
It is not yet known when the bill will be presented for a floor vote in the Senate. But if the legislation is enacted, it will dramatically change the relationship between online content creation organizations and the platforms they use to share their work.