The Electronic Frontier Foundation has come out against the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), a bill that would allow Big Media companies to form cartels that would otherwise be illegal under antitrust law, in order to pressure Big Tech companies for favorable treatment.
The digital rights non-profit warned that the bill would empower “media near-monopolies,” not independent journalists, a position shared by this author.
Leaving aside the detours, the real subject of the hearing was the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would give an exemption to publishers and broadcasters from antitrust laws, allowing them to form a unified bloc for negotiations with tech companies. The idea is that news media is struggling—present tense. The problem is that news media has struggled, past tense. Allowing this exemption will not bring back the papers that have been shut down, the journalists who have been laid off, or unwind the media mergers that have occurred in the meantime.
It does not answer the question of why the hedge funds, private equity ghouls, and giant media near-monopolies should get to reap the benefits of this new exemption when they have already benefitted from Big Tech’s ad takeover, snapping up and gutting news outlets at bargain prices. It does not propose a way to stop these companies from using whatever is negotiated under this exemption as a jumping-off point for their own negotiations.
Media consolidation is reaching its zenith. As is Big Tech power. Even as part of a larger package, this proposal won’t do what it is meant to. Instead, Congress should focus its attention on making the sweeping changes to antitrust law we so desperately need. Figure out how to curb these oligopolies’ power. Think beyond just breaking them up to what regulations will prevent this from happening again.
The EFF’s position echoes that of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who testified at the recent hearing on the bill, warning that it would empower big media companies rather than independent reporters. Greenwald also pointed out that it is often Big Media companies themselves that have pressured Big Tech companies to censor and suppress independent journalism.
“I do absolutely believe that the problem of Silicon Valley monopolistic power and its ability to interfere in our politics and impede a free press is a very serious one,” said Greenwald.
“But oftentimes it’s the media itself, it’s journalists themselves who are demanding that that power be exercised in a censorious way in a way that undermines a free and diverse press.”
Although the EFF is seen as a moderately liberal organization, it often sticks to its guns on freedom of expression issues, for example, its condemnation of politically motivated financial blacklisting, a problem which mainly affects the political right. The EFF has warned that banks and payment processors are becoming “de facto internet censors.”
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.