Cronyist Journalism Measure Could Prompt Facebook To Ban News

The worst ideas in Congress never die; they just get sneaked into unrelated bills. This week, that means lawmakers are reportedly trying to burrow a bad media protectionism bill into defense spending authorization. It’s called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), and it’s a doozy of bad incentives and state favoritism.

In short, the JCPA would suspend antitrust rules for “publishers of online content” so they could “collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms regarding the terms on which content may be distributed.” The latest version states that “digital journalism provider(s)” can engage in joint negotiations with large tech platforms “regarding the pricing, terms, and conditions by which the covered platform may access the content of the eligible digital journalism providers that are members of the joint negotiation entity.” It also sets up rules for these negotiations and mechanisms for enforcing their terms.

The idea animating all this is allowing media companies to negotiate a link tax.

As it stands, search engines like Google and social media companies like Facebook that link to news articles tend to provide short snippets of these articles under their headlines. This is a benefit to consumers, who can get a better sense of what the article is about, and to media companies. Links to news articles on Google, Facebook, etc. help alert people to articles they would potentially like to read, and the small summaries entice people to click. But in the fantasyland where Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar (who sponsored the bill) and other JCPA supporters live, search and social companies will pay for the privilege of sending traffic to media entities.

The plan utterly ignores the fact that search and social help online publishers find readers. Instead, it indulges a cartoonish rendering of tech companies as destroyers of journalism and possibly democracy.- READ MORE