September 26, 2022

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A bill that would let most news outlets collectively negotiate with dominant tech platforms for...

A bill that would let most news outlets collectively negotiate with dominant tech platforms for compensation to distribute their content advanced out of a Senate committee Thursday after Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) struck a deal. 
The Journalism Competition and Protection Act aims to help local and smaller news outlets negotiate by leveling the playing field with tech giants like Google and Facebook. 

Thursday’s vote to advance the bill followed two weeks of negotiations between Klobuchar and Cruz after the Democrat pulled a vote on her bill at a markup earlier this month.
The bill was pulled after an amendment from Cruz about content moderation was adopted when Democrats were down a member with Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) isolating in India with COVID-19.
“Platforms like Facebook and Google are counting on Republicans and Democrats being unable to put aside their differences to agree on meaningful legislation in the tech sector. This is our moment to prove them wrong,” Klobuchar said at Thursday’s vote. 
The bill advanced in a 15-7 vote, with seven Republicans voting against the bipartisan amendment. 
The bill provides a limited safe harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible digital journalism providers, including most newsrooms that employ fewer than 1,500 full-time employees, that would allow them to participate in joint negotiations. The employee cap is largely aimed at excluding the country’s three largest newspapers and national broadcasters. 
Cruz initially put forward an amendment that sought to eliminate the antitrust exemption if either side in negotiations mentions content moderation, building off accusations that tech giants are censoring conservative content. 

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But Klobuchar said that amendment would essentially give tech platforms a “get out of jail free card” by allowing them to bring up content moderation at the outset of a negotiation to avoid reaching a deal. 
The amended version that passed Thursday includes text that says the negotiations shall be conducted “solely to reach an agreement regarding the pricing, terms and conditions” and should not address how platforms display, rank or distribute content. 
“I think this amendment protects against this antitrust liability being used as a shield for censorship,” Cruz said. 

“Big Tech hates this bill. That to me is a strong positive for supporting it,” he added. 
Tech industry groups have pushed back strongly against the bill, arguing it would create a media cartel. 
Computer and Communications Industry Association President Matt Schruers said the bill “continues to be an unprecedented government overreach.” 

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“While objective journalism is critical to informing voters, inserting federal regulators into private sector business negotiations, mandating carriage of what the government thinks is ‘news,’ and promoting cartels is an irresponsible way to encourage an independent and robust news media,” he said in a statement. 
The bill is one of several Klobuchar is trying to push for a floor vote this year that targets tech giants. 
She’s been calling for votes on her American Online Innovation and Choice Act and Open App Markets Act, which aim to rein in the power of dominant tech platforms. Both bills advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support but have yet to be called for floor votes.

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