John Hugh DeMastri on September 22, 2022
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bipartisan bill Thursday morning designed to grant small news outlets collective bargaining power against Big Tech companies, after lawmakers reached a deal Wednesday afternoon to ensure this power did not include content moderation.
The bill, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), grants narrow exemptions to antitrust laws for small news organizations, allowing them to collectively bargain for compensation with Big Tech companies that “acquire, crawl and index” their content, according to a copy of the bill acquired by the Daily Caller News Foundation. Following nearly two weeks of negotiations between Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who sponsored the bill, and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana, the bill was expanded to include language limiting the scope of this collective bargaining to pricing, after Cruz expressed concerns the bill could encourage collaboration between Big Tech and favored outlets to suppress conservative speech.
“This is not about content, this is simply about negotiating prices,” said Klobuchar at Thursday’s meeting of the Judiciary Committee. Klobuchar stressed that the primary purpose of the bill was to help local news outlets be compensated when Big Tech companies use their content, a sentiment that was echoed by other supporters of the bill.
“Big Tech exercises a concentration of power that I think is unknown in the history of mankind,” said Cruz, criticizing tech companies for reappropriating small-time news outlets . “[T]hat concentration of power is regularly used to trample on the little guy … I agree with Sen. Klobuchar that that is an unfair system, and it is an abusive system.”
Sen. Ted Cruz on his JCPA amendment: “This amendment protects against this antitrust liability being used as a shield for censorship. Big Tech hates this bill…This [amend] will be the 1st meaningful consequence for & protection against censorship based on viewpoint & content.” pic.twitter.com/zqKCy0l4KG
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) September 22, 2022
For the first time, Cruz that he would support the bill on the condition his amendment passed. He characterized the amendment as being one of the first “meaningful” attempts to protect content creators from Big Tech censorship.
Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California criticized the bill for using “vague” terms such as “acquiring, crawling and indexing,” and worried the bill might force platforms to pay for content that they disagree with. Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah praised the Cruz amendment for reducing Big Tech’s ability to “collude” to censor opinions they disagree with, but criticized the bill as effectively suspending antitrust laws for an industry that was favored by Congress.
“The bill still contains a fundamental flaw of attempting to improve competition by sanctioning the formation of cartels,” said Lee. “This is still a bad bill.”
Having left committee, the bill now stands ready to be voted on by the Senate, pending scheduling.
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