Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has overruled Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) by stepping in at the last minute and single-handedly derailing a new Democrat bill.
The legislation, The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (S. 673), would pressure Big Tech companies to pay for content from small news outlets to be displayed on their platforms.
Mainstream media companies would be excluded from the measure.
However, many argue that the move would cause social media companies to simply block smaller news outlets, rather than pay them, and only display news from Big Media outlets instead.
Cruz added an amendment that would prevent Big Tech companies from censoring users, which won bipartisan support.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the bill’s sponsor, was outraged, saying:
“I think the agreement that we had has been blown up,” Klobuchar said.
“This bill is about protecting local journalism by leveling the playing field and allowing local news outlets to band together to negotiate for fair compensation from tech platforms.
“I am committed to targeted, bipartisan legislation to achieve this goal.
“Since news outlets depend on the antitrust exemption while the covered platforms do not, the platforms could then raise content moderations at the first opportunity in an attempt to avoid the joint negotiations.”
Klobuchar admitted defeat and withdrew her bill, telling a GOP Senator:
“Sen. Kennedy, we worked on this for months and we won’t be able to support the Cruz amendment here, so I’m hoping we can talk about this in the future.
“But if this is in it we can’t support the bill.”
Ted Cruz fired back, saying his amendment would stop any possible censorship between Big Tech and the media, as we saw with Hunter Biden’s laptop scandal.
As the Texas senator pointed out, that should be the goal of Congress when passing laws, not fostering an environment that’s open to censorship.
“It simply says the topic of discussion when the two sides get together can’t be censorship,” Cruz said.
“It should be ad revenue, which is what all of this discussion of this markup has focused on.
“Democrats would rather pull their bill entirely than advance it with my proposed protections for Americans from unfair online censorship,” Cruz said.
“What is preeminent to me is whether this bill is going to increase or decrease censorship.
“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.
“You should not be negotiating on content moderation and how you are going to censor substantive content.”
Supporters of a bill meant to give news organizations greater leverage against the giant tech companies were forced to temporarily withdraw the measure Thursday, raising new doubts about one of Congress’ prime efforts to check Silicon Valley’s power.
Two hours into its Thursday markup, Republicans inserted provisions designed to limit the platforms’ abilities to moderate content, over the objections of lead sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who then withdrew the bill. She said she fully plans to move the bill forward in a bipartisan way.