Ted Cruz Blows Up Congress’ Plan to Save Journalism by Making Big Tech Pay

Both Google and Meta have taken steps to start paying US publishers for merging their news content, but neither tech giant has yet found a perfect solution that would fairly compensate publishers and potentially help the massive shuttering of newsrooms across America. to counteract. The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook stopped paying US publishers in July, and more recently, the media has also been unenthusiastic about the terms of Google’s “News Showcase” program, mostly opposing partnership.

In the latter case, WSJ reported that some media outlets were delaying participating in the News Showcase for a very specific reason. They waited to see what would happen to a new law — the Competition and Retention of Journalists Act — that seemed like a better deal. If passed, the JCPA would force Google and Meta to pay US news publishers who collectively negotiated a fair payment. Now, however, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has tabled a new amendment to the JCPA that, the Chicago Tribune reports, narrowly passed this week. And Cruz’s new provision may have effectively killed the previously bipartisan bill by reducing Democratic support, crushing the US publishers’ supposed dream deal.

What Cruz has proposed is an amendment to prohibit tech companies and news organizations from using the collective bargaining tool to collude in attempts to censor content. While the bill itself waives an antitrust agreement to allow news organizations to collectively negotiate with tech companies, Cruz says this key antitrust exemption wouldn’t apply if someone “engages in a content moderation discussion” during the negotiation process.

After 11 to 10 votes, the Cruz amendment was approved.

The Chicago Tribune reported that one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), said the amendment divided Congress and Democrats should walk away from the bill. She is concerned that the Cruz amendment would provide Google or Meta with an escape route to avoid joint negotiations by simply fueling discussions about content moderation “at the first opportunity.”

Cruz seemed to suggest that preventing censorship risks was more important than preventing platforms from shutting down joint negotiations.

“What happened today was a huge victory for the First Amendment and free speech,” Cruz said in a statement to Ars. “Unfortunately, it’s also a case study of how much Democrats love censorship. They’d rather withdraw their bill completely than advance it with my proposed protections for Americans from unfair online censorship.

Klobuchar, Google and Meta did not immediately comment on Ars.

Criticism of the JCPA

Since the pandemic began, The New York Times recently reported that 360 newspapers have been closed. Before that, newsroom financial instability was just as bad, NYT says, with newspapers closing at the rate of two a week. Largely due: a drop in ad revenue in small newsrooms. Meanwhile, tech giants like Google and Meta continued to gobble up billions in advertising dollars — generating most of their vast wealth and for the most part, failing to pay editors for money earned from collecting content.

In an effort to save local journalism from extinction, Klobuchar, along with Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) and Representatives David Cicilline (DR.I.) and Ken Buck (RN.Y.), enacted the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. . . The goal was to push advertising dollars back into news organizations by forcing Google and Meta to pay publishers for aggregation.

The Chicago Tribune reported that while some journalism organizations and free press advocates view the bill as a “lifeline,” others have criticized the bill for “everything from the temporary antitrust exemption to undermining copyright and fair use on the Internet.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending civil liberties online, reported that the JCPA was not a “magic solution.” EFF is partly against the JCPA because it usually just creates more opportunities for more giants to get involved. Rather than helping small newsrooms, the law could encourage more large companies to buy up more newspapers, lay off more staff and replace even more news with clickbait.

On a larger scale, the idea of ​​news publishers licensing links to tech companies implies “a sort of ownership of links, an ownership of how information is shared,” EFF reported. “That has major implications for the entire internet, which relies on the ability to link to sources of information from far and wide. Linking is not copyright infringement, at least not under current law. But the JCPA risks creating a new quasi-copyright law for linking, or even leading the courts to extend copyright law to some forms of linking.”

EFF did not immediately respond to Ars’s request for comment, but EFF experts have warned: “Creating an implicit right to control links in any context will not preserve journalism, it will rot it.”

Rather than focus on implementing the JCPA, EFF reported that newsrooms could be made better protected and more profitable by promoting more competition in digital advertising through Congress passing the Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act . Both bills are still being assessed by committees.

As Congress debates the benefits of supporting thousands of small US newsrooms through the JCPA and the Digital Advertising Act, Google’s News Showcase has yet to debut in the US. Most recently, some larger publishers have signed licensing agreements. WSJ reported that Bloomberg and Reuters could earn up to $3 million annually from multi-year deals, and WSJ parent company News Corp expects future revenues of more than $100 million annually from multi-year deals with Google and other tech companies.