The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday struck down a bill that would have allowed big media companies to ignore antitrust laws and jointly negotiate with social media companies on content distribution.
The committee by a vote of 11-10-1 adopted an amendment introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that killed the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA).
“What happened today was a huge victory for the First Amendment and free speech,” Cruz said in a statement Thursday about the bill’s withdrawal. “Sadly, it is also a case study in how much the Democrats love censorship. They would rather pull their bill entirely than advance it with my proposed protections for Americans from unfair online censorship.”
The termination of the bill comes amid recent allegations that platforms like Facebook and Twitter have censored certain content at the federal government’s direction.
The bill would have created a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for print, broadcast and digital news companies to allow these outlets to jointly negotiate payment terms for content distribution on social media.
The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted the poison pill amendment about seven months after former Vice President for MRC Free Speech America and MRC Business Dan Gainor warned senators that the bill could undermine journalism itself.
“The JCPA allows big media companies to ignore antitrust laws and work together,” Gainor said during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing in February. “That isn’t fixing the problem of having a Big Tech advertising cabal. It is simply adding another cabal to negotiate with it. Allowing a few of the largest and most powerful media companies to act as proxies for others only ensures that big firms will secure deals that benefit them.”
Before yesterday’s committee vote, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) also expressed concern about social media companies’ anti-conservative censorship and the apparent government influence behind that censorship.
“There have been recent allegations that the Biden White House has tried to influence content on social media,” Kennedy said. “We need to have a standard. We can all agree that poison is being spread on social media. The problem, of course, is what is poison? And I don’t think government ought to decide that definition.”
During the White House press briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dodged a question about alleged collusion between the Biden administration and social media companies to censor certain content. An ongoing First Amendment lawsuit filed by the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general, reportedly uncovered emails last week allegedly indicating that Biden administration officials pressured Big Tech platforms to censor certain content.
Gainor said in his February testimony that the JCPA could create a kind of “cartel” to protect certain media outlets. He questioned whether outlets that neglected covering the Hunter Biden story would “stand up and represent the little guy” – referring to smaller outlets – during Big Tech-Big Media negotiations.
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