News competition measure left out of defense spending bill after tech pushback

A bill that would allow news outlets to bargain collectively with dominant tech firms to distribute their content was left out of must-pass defense spending legislation Tuesday following pushback from the tech industry. 

Silicon Valley giants, as well as advocacy groups often on opposite battle lines from the companies, joined together earlier this week to push Congress not to add the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Meta went so far as to threaten to pull news content from Facebook if the “ill-considered” bill was added to the text, rather than “submit to government-mandated negotiations.” 

Text of the NDAA released Tuesday did not appear to include the JCPA. 

The journalism competition bill advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in September with bipartisan support. Proponents say it would help the news industry, especially smaller, local outlets, survive in an environment increasingly reliant on tech giants like Facebook and Google for distributing their content.

The proposal would provide a limited safe harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible digital journalism providers that would allow them to participate in joint negotiations.

Earlier this week, tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer Communications Industry Association launched separate ad campaigns slamming the bill. At the same time, dozens of civil society organizations including the ACLU, Public Knowledge and Fight for the Future wrote a letter to congressional leaders urging them to keep the JCPA out of the NDAA or any other omnibus legislation. 

The groups argued the bill could have consequences that limit tech platforms’ ability to moderate content, as well as set a precedent for charging content that was once free. 

While the tech industry groups and some advocacy groups joined together in lobbying against the bill’s inclusion in the defense legislation, they are on opposite sides of a battle to get Congress to pass other key antitrust bills this year, including the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.

The bill would limit dominant tech companies from preferencing their own products and services over rivals. Groups like Public Knowledge and Fight for the Future have been advocating in support of the legislation, while tech industry groups like the CCIA and NetChoice have slammed the legislation.

The versions of the bill advanced out of the Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate with bipartisan vote but have yet to be called for floor votes as the session comes to a close.

Tags Journalism Competition and Preservation Act NDAA

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