Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has signed on to a call by all major conservative media to back a bipartisan bill that will offer the most serious rollback of Big Tech power in decades.
The JCPA, or Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, is designed to bring search and social media platforms such as Google and Facebook to the bargaining table to pay for original news content they scrape off of third-party websites.
These companies, in turn, make immense profits for themselves without any sharing arrangement with content creators.
The proposed law requires these companies to pay publishers for the aggregated content used on Big Tech platforms.
The JCPA has been backed by almost all major conservative online media – including Newsmax, the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, Washington Times, Townhall, and Salem Media, among others.
As Congress moves through the lame duck session, McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to include the JCPA legislation in the pending National Defense Authorization Act.
News of the possible new law panicked Big Tech companies, with Facebook parent Meta threatening to ban all news content from its feeds.
Facebook has good reason to worry.
A new JCPA law will allow publishers with fewer than 1,500 employees to collectively bargain for fair compensation for the valuable, original content they create via a four-year antitrust "safe harbor."
Advocates say it provides conservatives with the best opportunity to clamp down on the unwieldy power that Big Tech monopolies exert over publishers by allowing them to negotiate a fair price for the use of their content.
In a letter to lawmakers a group of several dozen conservative publishers agreed that JCPA is "critically important to protecting the future of high-quality journalism.
"Existing laws make it difficult for news organizations to obtain fair compensation from tech platforms for the use of their content," they wrote.
Critics have called the bargaining group a "cartel," but supporters of the JCPA say it's the only meaningful way thousands of small publishers can fairly bargain with giants like Google and Facebook.
And they also note that big, and often liberal media organizations have already cut lucrative financial deals with Big Tech for use of their content, as have a handful of conservative outlets who are opposing JCPA.
The News/Media Alliance, a leading voice for the news media industry, recently published a White Paper outlining how Google uses news content to its advantage while financially crippling publishers.
The White Paper noted Google's use of content through Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, through Google Discover, the Google News app, Google Assistant, and Search have become a "walled garden" where both publishers and consumers are directed to stay in, ultimately resulting in a loss of advertising revenue, reader data, and subscribers for publishers.
"Google extracts revenue from valuable news content by deliberately and systematically delivering personalized information to users to keep them within their walled gardens," said Danielle Coffey, executive vice president and general counsel at the News/Media Alliance.
Because there is "little bargaining power," she said, news publishers are "forced to consent to nearly unlimited uses of their content in exchange for scraps to cover the tremendous investments it takes to produce quality journalism."
Some critics fear that Big Tech platforms, which have been accused of suppressing conservative viewpoints in the name of "disinformation," will continue to sideline right-leaning media outlets.
However, the JCPA mandates any deal with Big Tech is content-neutral and inclusive of all small publishers.
Because only publishers with 1,500 or less employees are included, "big media" like The New York Times and Washington Post won't be eligible.
In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee adopted a content moderation amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which prohibits Big Tech from using negotiations as a pretext for influencing, manipulating, or banning content.
The Cruz amendment prevents the negotiating parties from discussing how they "display, rank, distribute, suppress, promote, throttle, label, filter, or curate" content – meaning the only thing up for negotiation is how much Big Tech will finally pay publishers for their content.
In 2021, Australia passed a similar content law, requiring Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for aggregation on their platforms.
As the law was being considered, Facebook threatened, then shut down news aggregation on its platform, but only for a short period.
An Australian government report released this month concluded the new law has worked well and proposed requiring other social media and search platforms to pay for used content.
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