House Proposal Forces Big Tech to Pay for Original Content
A bipartisan bill supported by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seeks to rein in Big Tech by forcing companies like Google and Facebook to pay for original news content they obtain from third-party sources.
The idea is to stop Big Tech from pirating news – especially from small publishers – though it is unclear how it easy it would be for them to produce their own content.
Authored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) would require Big Tech companies to pay publishers for the aggregated content used on their platforms. The publishers, in turn, would reap massive profits without being forced to negotiate contracts with content creators.
The JCPA allows publishers with less than 1,500 employees to negotiate fair repayment through a 4-year antitrust “safe harbor” and heads off partisan conflict by mandating that all deals are content-neutral and inclusive. A related bill being considered in the Senate would prevent Big Tech companies from citing negotiations as reason for manipulating or banning content.
Facebook parent company Meta has already threatened to pull news from the platform altogether if Congress passes the bill. As Meta spokesperson Andy Stone explains, the company would ‘rather remove all news than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions.’
As proponents of the bill have noted, large mainstream news outlets already have deals in place with the Big Tech companies that use their content and the JCPA may be small publishers’ only chance to stay in business.
“[The JCPA is] critically important to protecting the future of high-quality journalism,” argues a letter sent to lawmakers by a group of conservative publishers. “Existing laws make it difficult for news organizations to obtain fair compensation from tech platforms for the use of their content.”
As explained by News/Media Alliance executive director Danielle Coffey, Google uses the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) framework to feed users personalized information at quick speeds – trapping them in “walled gardens” and reducing exposure to varied content.
“Google extracts revenue from valuable news content by deliberately and systematically delivering personalized information to users to keep them in their walled gardens,” explains Coffey. Without bargaining power, 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.”
As the News/Media Alliance has warned, the JCPA may be the only thing standing in the way of a total takeover of newspaper publishers by Big Tech – creating a dystopia in which “social media becomes America’s de facto local newspaper.”
With support from more than a dozen lawmakers, Congress is considering adding the JCPA to the annual defense bill as a way to get it passed as soon as possible.