Senators Strike Deal On Journalism Bill, Adding Protections For Conservative Media 

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Senators reached a bipartisan deal Wednesday on a bill intended to give news organizations bargaining power against Big Tech, agreeing to amend the bill to include protections for conservative media from online censorship, lawmakers confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The bill, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), is intended to help media organizations negotiate with tech platforms like Google and Facebook for compensation over the use of their content by narrowly exempting smaller publications from antitrust laws if they form a collective bargaining group. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana struck a deal Wednesday to clarify that these negotiations with tech companies do not include discussions about content moderation, a provision Cruz pushed to be included.

The deal effectively places negotiations on how to censor or suppress content outside the scope of the bill, thereby preventing news organizations from colluding with tech companies to suppress or censor conservative voices, according to a copy of the an amendment to the bill seen by the Daily Caller News Foundation. The bill would also prevent media organizations in the collective bargaining group from discriminating against other publications, such as conservative or independent outlets, based on “size” or “views expressed.”

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“We have reached an agreement that clarifies what the bill was designed to do: give local news outlets a real seat at the negotiating table and bar the tech firms from throttling, filtering, suppressing or curating content,” Kennedy’s office told the DCNF. “he only reason I can see for parties to oppose this bill is that they have a problem either with healthy market competition or free speech.”

Cruz had introduced an amendment to the bill during its markup earlier this month aimed at preventing news organizations from collaborating with online platforms to censor content, citing the frequent censorship of conservative voices on social media. However, the amendment tanked bipartisan agreement, preventing the bill from moving forward.

“If you’re negotiating, you ought to be negotiating on the ostensible harm this bill is directed at, which is the inability to get revenues from your content,” Cruz had said. “You should not be negotiating on content moderation and how you are going to censor substantive content.”

Under the new deal, any agreement between publications and tech platforms cannot govern how a tech platform “displays, ranks, distributes, suppresses, promotes, throttles, labels, filters, or curates the content of the eligible digital journalism providers” and social media users, according to the amendment’s text.

The bill is championed by Democrats as a way of safeguarding local and independent journalism, while some Republicans, such as Cruz, see the bill as a means of ameliorating major tech companies’ influence over conservative media online.

“To preserve strong, independent journalism, we have to make sure news organizations are able to negotiate on a level playing field with the online platforms that have come to dominate news distribution and digital advertising,” Klobuchar said in an August statement.

However, the bill has attracted many critics on both the left and the right, such as left-wing think tank Public Knowledge and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

“JCPA and similar proposals make news outlets dependent on government privileges, further undermining the independence, credibility, and integrity of journalists today, and this would have likely increased the government’s pressure and public scrutiny of them,” Jennifer Huddleston, policy counsel of tech trade group NetChoice, said earlier this month.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the bill early Thursday.

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