Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
The mass censorship of conservatives by the Google/Facebook duopoly was due to pressure from the mainstream media which claimed that President Trump won because of conservative “fake news”.
Since then conservative media sites have suffered huge traffic losses. Some have been barred from advertising on Facebook. Conservative personalities are being deplatformed and shadowbanned daily. Google’s YouTube platform has decimated the business models of countless conservative sites.
The push by a cartel of media organizations to censor and deplatform conservative media while creating a privileged position for their own content was an anti-trust violation. Facebook has explicitly colluded with the media cartel to make media fact checkers into the gatekeepers for content on social media.
Now a bipartisan congressional bill would give the media an official exemption from anti-trust law.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019 is a project of the News Media Alliance. The NMA is an alliance of thousands of print media outlets ranging from major national papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, to huge empires like McClatchy (29 newspapers), Gatehouse Media (144 papers now, 260 papers after the Gannett merger) to some smaller companies. The official goal of the bill is to allow print media to negotiate better terms with Google and Facebook. Not only is the bill legally dubious, but it threatens to legalize the media’s purge of conservatives on social media.
H.R. 2054 in the House and S. 1700 in the Senate give the media a four-year exemption from antitrust laws while it forms a cartel to negotiate with Facebook, Google and other large internet platforms.
This has disturbing implications for conservatives because such a cartel is likely to exclude conservative media, despite its promise of being non-discriminatory, and will certainly exclude individual users. The end result of such negotiations will further privilege left-wing media content on social media platforms.
But the threat posed by the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act isn’t only that it will rig Google and Facebook to favor content from media outlets, but is likely to lead to censorship of conservatives.
The bill states that the big media cartel negotiations with the big tech duopoly have to be “nondiscriminatory as to similarly situated news content creators, and directly relate to the quality, accuracy, attribution or branding, and interoperability of news.” “Similarly situated” goes undefined, but “quality” and “accuracy” would allow the media to push Facebook and Google to censor sites that they claim are low-quality or inaccurate. And Google and Facebook would rather help the media cartel make more money by censoring conservative competition than by sharing more revenues with the media.
The media cartel had already pressured social media monopolies to censor conservatives in the name of quality and accuracy. JCPA would exempt the media cartel from anti-trust violations even when colluding to further wipe out conservatives from social media while favoring their own content.
Who gets to decide what quality and accuracy are? Inevitably the media’s own fact checkers.
That’s like giving Amazon, Walmart and Target an anti-trust safe harbor for crushing local retail by banding together to force cities to evict small businesses that don’t meet their “quality” standards.
In his House testimony before the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, David Chavern, the head of the NMA, argued that news organizations want to band together to “to demand a greater focus on originality and reliability” from platforms like Facebook.
What that really means is rigging the algorithms to reward media content over user content.
In a Recode interview, Chavern argued that the social media platforms “determine which of our content gets delivered to who, in what priority.” And the media would like to prioritize its content over ours.
It’s that simple.
Despite the Senate and House bills being bipartisan, the Democrats have been open about the target.
“Without honest and trusted journalists reporting around the world and here at home, what is out of sight truly becomes out of mind — but we’re seeing more and more independent and local news outlets close as ‘fake news’ rises,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat who sponsored the Senate bill, said.
The false media libel that ‘fake news’ on social media elected President Trump was the original pretext for the purge of conservatives from social media that continues to silence opposing voices today.
Senator John Kennedy, the Republican sponsor of the bill, claimed that the media is “in a David-and-Goliath battle in which newspapers don’t have a stone to throw much less a slingshot to put it in.”
Is the Washington Post, owned by the richest man in the world, whose company, Amazon, has destroyed retail across the country, really a young boy without even a slingshot to his name?
The New York Times generated $709 million in digital revenues last year, but it wants us to believe that it’s helpless and needs a four-year exemption to join a cartel to increase its digital revenues even more.
Gatehouse is owned by an investment management firm that manages $70 billion in assets.
This isn’t David and Goliath. It’s Goliath and his shorter, but even uglier and meaner cousin.
The David in this story isn’t any of the conglomerates wrestling with each other to make another billion. It’s the ordinary conservative internet user having his views trampled under their monstrous feet.
There are plenty of ‘Davids’ in Senator Kennedy’s own state who have been deplatformed.
Senator Kennedy’s press release states, “At issue is the development of an uneven playing field for the delivery of news content. The majority of Americans now get their news from Google or Facebook. Those social media giants decide what news their users read – whether it’s clickbait, ‘fake’ news or quality news stories.” That’s exactly the point. The media wants to make sure its stories get read.
Not content from any of the conservative sites or conservative users, which they deem ‘fake news’.
The media’s idea of “quality news stories” is yet another piece accusing President Trump of being a Russian agent or a racist. Its idea of “fake news” is anything coming from a conservative source.
Why would any Republican further rig the playing field to help the media shout down conservatives?
In the House, Rep. David Cicilline, the left-wing Democrat who introduced the bill, claimed that the JCPA would “provide a much-needed lifeline to local publishers”. At least If your idea of local is a huge national organization that owns hundreds of local papers. Or the Washington Post.
“Through our bipartisan legislation, we are opening the door for community newspapers to more fairly negotiate with large tech platforms,” Rep. Doug Collins, the Republican who introduced the bill, argued.
Why not give all businesses a safe harbor from anti-trust law for negotiating with big tech monopolies?
Rep. Collins claims that the JCPA will provide “competition”. A cartel is the opposite of competition.
The media’s argument for why it deserves its very own cartel is that it’s performing a public service. And that public service is trying to destroy Republicans and conservatives, while championing lefty agendas.
The little billion-dollar mainstream media has the right to spew any lies and smears that it wants.
What the media doesn’t have is the right to a special exemption from anti-trust laws so it can leverage its power to pressure social media companies into favoring its content and crushing conservatives.
The media cartel has been illegally doing this for years. Now it wants its illegality, legalized.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is a disaster for free speech and the rule of law. If conservatives take a stand against it, they may be able to stop the next wave of social media censorship.
If this sweetheart deal for the Washington Post and the New York Times gets through the House and the Senate, it will be up to President Trump to take a stand for fairness, free speech, and the rule of law.