Big tech and its critics lash out at journalism measure

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) speaks during a roundtable discussion with candidate for Vermont Senate Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on reproductive rights in Vermont and the country with local leaders and healthcare advocates on Friday, October 7, 2022 in Burlington, Vt.

Groups normally at odds over tech policy joined forces Monday to tell Congress to keep a journalism antitrust bill out of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

The joint backlash from groups representing tech giants and their critics concerns the Journalism Competition Preservation Act (JCPA), which would allow news outlets to collectively negotiate with dominant tech platforms for compensation to distribute their content.

Tech industry groups launched ad campaigns Monday ramping up their criticism of the legislation.

NetChoice launched a six-figure digital and TV ad campaign in the Washington, D.C. area against the bill, arguing the bill is part of Democrats’ “dangerous plan” to “bail out their allies in the liberal media.” The group’s ads are set to air on Fox News.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) separately launched a 30-second digital ad opposing the bill with a broader message that the proposal would “make misinformation harder to fight.”

Meta went so far as to threaten to remove news from its platform if the bill is passed as part of the broader national security legislation. 

“If Congress passes an ill-considered journalism bill as part of national security legislation, we will be forced to consider removing news from our platform altogether rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone tweeted.

Meanwhile, dozens of civil society organizations including the ACLU, Public Knowledge and Free Press wrote to congressional leaders urging them to keep the JCPA out of the NDAA or any other omnibus legislation. 

The groups said the bill will “compound some of the biggest issues in our information landscape and do little to enable the most promising new models to improve it.”

They said the bill could limit platforms from taking content moderation measures by a provision they argue would “force platforms” to carry content of any digital journalism provider that becomes a joint negotiation entity “regardless of how extreme their content” is. That could in turn lead to more disinformation and hate speech online, the groups said.  

They also said it will set a precedent for charging for content that was once free. 

The CCIA, which names Google and Meta among its members, also signed the letter. 

The JCPA advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in September with bipartisan support, but seven Republicans voted against advancing it.

The bill’s main sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has held it up as a proposal to push back on the power Facebook and Google have over news outlets. 

The bill would provide a limited safer harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible digital journalism providers, including most newsrooms that employ fewer than 1,500 full-time workers, that would allow them to participate in joint negotiations.

Supporters of the bill, including the News Media Alliance, argue it would help small news outlets that they say have had their revenues slashed because of dominant tech platforms, mainly Google and Facebook, that distribute their content. 

The defense bill itself faces an unclear path to passage because of a number of other debates.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Facebook JCPA Journalism Competition Preservation Act NDAA

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