Media

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

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

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), as well as Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ben Sasse (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.

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.

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 Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. Cory Booker (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.

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