A coalition of tech advocacy groups attacked a proposed piece of legislation that would give smaller and conservative news outlets an advantage in negotiating with Big Tech companies, claiming that it would hinder papers’ ability to compete on social media, not help them.
The coalition, made up of 21 different tech advocacy organizations, filed a letter on Sept. 2 and released it on Tuesday calling for Congress to reconsider the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, a bill presented by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to give journalistic outlets the ability to band together in negotiations without running afoul of antitrust laws and to force Big Tech companies to compensate outlets for their content. The letter claims that JCPA does little to encourage improvement in the industry, that it primarily benefits the more prominent news outlets, and does not ensure that the funding goes to journalists.
“The JCPA will compound some of the biggest issues in our information landscape and do little to enable the most promising new models to improve it,” the letter argues.
The letter was signed by such technology advocacy organizations as the Center for Democracy and Technology and Chamber for Progress. Other notable signatories include the Association of Research Libraries, Consumer Reports, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight For the Future, Public Knowledge, R Street Institute, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Internet Archive.
The groups argued that the language used in the bill would require Big Tech platforms to “carry the content of any digital journalism provider that qualifies to be part of a joint negotiation, regardless of how extreme their content.” This creates content moderation concerns since it would allow outlets promoting false claims to legally attack companies that may remove or censor their content.
The bill would also “set a legal and political precedent” to force Big Tech companies to pay for content unnecessarily. “Requiring payment for using facts flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent, based on the First Amendment, that no one may own facts,” the letter states.
Finally, the letter notes that while the bill would prevent large outlets like the New York Times from receiving a financial benefit, it would benefit larger news outlet chains like Gannett and Sinclair in the negotiation process. The legislation also does not require the funding to pay journalists.
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled updated text for the JCPA on Aug. 23 with the intent of marking it up on Thursday.
The revised bill would empower eligible outlets to form “joint negotiation entities” to negotiate collectively with tech companies over their access to the outlets’ content. It would also require those companies, if they have at least 50 million U.S.-based users or are owned by someone with annual sales of more than $550 billion, to negotiate in good faith with the outlets. It would also offer the eligible outlets an eight-year safe harbor and the ability to withhold content amid joint negotiations if necessary.
Some news advocacy organizations have praised the legislation. “We applaud Chairwoman Klobuchar, Sen. Kennedy, Chairman Cicilline, and ranking member Buck for their leadership in progressing the JCPA and for their hard work and dedication to fighting for the future of local journalism through pursuing fair and just compensation for news publishers,” said David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance. “The time to act is now.”