Senate Democrats withdraw journalism and big tech revenue negotiation bill after committee passes Cruz amendment
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, backed by both Democrats and Republicans, would allow news companies to collectively bargain with social media entities over how their content can be distributed and at what price. From now on, that would be against antitrust laws; the new bill would suspend this prohibition in this case for a period of four years.
The intent of the bill is to allow media outlets with fewer than 1,500 employees to secure compensation for the content they produce.
at Cruz amendment added language that prohibits content moderation policies from being discussed in these negotiations, an attempt to prevent social media companies from dictating what news companies publish.
“I would like to see our local media grow and proliferate…but I am not at all convinced that this bill will solve the problem it is intended to solve, and I have at least some concern that this bill could exacerbate the problems,” Cruz said in the committee hearing.
“I think the biggest threat to free speech isn’t even Big Tech’s market power, it’s Big Tech’s wanton abuse of power and blatant censorship.”
Summarizing his amendment, Cruz said that during these discussions, “the topic of discussion when the two parties come together cannot be censorship, it should be ad revenue.”
Violation of this provision would void the antitrust moratorium and render trading illegal.
During discussion of the amendment, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), one of the Republicans working on the bill’s negotiations, said, “This amendment makes explicit what I thought was implicit – if I’m wrong, please let me know.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) opposed the amendment, saying, “[The amendment] essentially gives the platforms a free get out of jail card by presenting a clear opportunity to play in the trading.
“Given that media depends on the antitrust exemption while covered platforms do not,” she added, “platforms could then increase content moderation at the first opportunity to try to avoid joint negotiations”.
The amendment went from 11 to 10 because Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) was out with COVID-19 and did not appoint a committee proxy — a mechanism implemented in Congress after the pandemic began .
“Senator Durbin, I don’t think we can support this bill anymore, so we’re going to have to wait,” Klobuchar said after the amendment passed.
The bill was withdrawn to be discussed again.
“What happened today was a huge victory for the First Amendment and free speech,” Cruz said in an afterthought statement. “Unfortunately, this is also a case study of how much Democrats love censorship. They would rather withdraw their bill entirely than push it forward with my proposed protections for Americans against unfair online censorship.
Censorship by social media and other technological entities has become a hot topic over the past few years. The Texas Legislature passed legislation last year aimed at banning social media platforms from “censoring” individuals and the views they express – which is now the subject of a court case by two technology-related trade associations.