Senators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents

Senators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents
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A bipartisan group of senators are trying to require foreign media outlets to disclose publicly if they are registered as foreign agents.

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down MORE (D-Calif.) and John CornynJohn CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Texas), as well as Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSeveral GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Democrats seek to exploit Trump-GOP tensions in COVID-19 talks On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP MORE (R-Neb.), introduced legislation on Thursday to require foreign media outlets to disclose to consumers if they are registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

"This commonsense provision would require foreign agents to clearly disclose their affiliation to readers, viewers, and listeners. This transparency will help consumers judge the source of information, which is especially important in an election year," Harris said in a statement.

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Cornyn added that by requiring companies to publicly disclose if they are registered under FARA "we can cut down on the amount of disinformation these bad actors try to sow here at home. Especially in an election year, it is critical that Americans stay alert when faced with foreign media campaigns."

The bill is also being offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a mammoth defense policy bill currently being debated by the Senate.

The bill would make it unlawful for a foreign media outlet registered under FARA to mail or make a transmission —over the internet, through television or radio — without a "conspicuous statement that the transmission is made by an agent of a foreign principle."

RT, a Russian news network, had its Capitol Hill credentials pulled after it registered as a foreign agent under FARA. Any foreign entity that does work in the United States on behalf of a foreign government, political party or official is required by law to register. 

The Wall Street Journal also reported in 2018 that the Justice Department had forced two Chinese-state run news organizations to register under FARA.

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The joint Harris-Cornyn effort comes after the two sparred on the Senate floor last week ahead of a failed vote on police reform legislation in a moment that quickly went viral.

During the fiery floor exchange last week, Cornyn asked if Democrats were going to block legislation that included anti-lynching legislation spearheaded by Harris, Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottLobbyists see wins, losses in GOP coronavirus bill Revered civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis lies in state in the Capitol GOP plan would boost deduction for business meals MORE (R-S.C.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.J.), the Senate’s three Black senators. His office later circulated a release on the incident as “Cornyn calls out VP hopeful Harris.”

“So the Senators are going to block their own anti-lynching bill by their vote?” Cornyn asked.

Harris responded that it was “important we not distract the American people from the task at hand.”

“We cannot pull out a specific component of this bill and leave everything else in the garbage bin. … It is like asking a mother to save one of her children and leave the others,” she said.