The Journalism Competition and Protection Act (JCPA) was rescued from legislative limbo yesterday after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) worked with Democrats to save it, based on the false claim that the media and Big Tech are at odds. But, as pointed out by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), nothing could be further from the truth.
The media cartel bill, Blackburn said in her earliest criticism of it, gives “even more power to the mainstream media AND Silicon Valley.” Recently, she said the bill would allow “liberal media AND Silicon Valley to silence conservatives.”
Senator Marco Rubio, similarly, has said the bill “opens the door to a larger collusion between big media and big tech.”
These criticisms highlight a fundamental weakness in a key argument made by JCPA supporters, including Sen. Cruz. According to them, media and Big Tech are against each other.
In fact, the two entities have worked hand in hand for years to suppress independent media and control the flow of information on behalf of the elites. The JCPA, which would allow media outlets to form a joint negotiating entity to partner with Silicon Valley, merely exacerbates that long-term trend.
There was a time, fast approaching the outer limits of generational memory, when New York Times and CNN and other such media titans had to compete on a level playing field with independent creators.
If a freelancer gets a million views overnight, that blogger is likely on the first page of relevant Google searches and at the top of your Facebook feed.
Videos from independent creators recording from their parents’ spare rooms would routinely overtake CNN and NBC in YouTube search results.
Ordinary users can open hashtags on Twitter and meaningfully elevate them, giving ordinary people unprecedented influence over the national conversation.
For a moment, it looked like the slow, centralized, dinosaur brands of legacy media were destined for the dustbin, outmatched and out-competed by tens of thousands of independent voices.
That moment, which spanned the first half of the 2010s, now seems like a distant memory. Why? Because Big Tech colluded with Big Media to rig the playing field.
It doesn’t matter if content from CNN and New York Times is organically less popular than content from independent creators. Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will force it to your front page regardless of its organic momentum.
Google and Facebook do this through prominently displayed news tabs, where only hand-selected feeds are allowed to appear.
Twitter does it through the “what’s happening” tab. Previously a list of trending hashtags driven purely by user activity, it now force-feeds you content from carefully selected “authoritative” news sources, along with some hashtags that aren’t deemed print-worthy.
And YouTube just adjusts the search results whenever old media complains.
What’s more, every major platform now employs armies of partisan “fact checkers”: a kind of digital stasis that hunts down alternative news sources, identifying miscreants so the platforms can then suppress them. Tech companies don’t even try to hide that this ecosystem is a tool for legacy media companies to crush their competition: USA today for example, it’s a Facebook fact checker.
It is against this backdrop—years of collusion between Big Tech and Big Media to stifle the latter’s competition—that Republicans like Ted Cruz have thrown their support behind the JCPA, which is a free pass for further deals. It is a supreme betrayal of voters who want the discredited media replaced, not saved.
Perhaps the Republican senators supporting this bill hope that their constituents are simply desensitized to betrayal by now. It would be a dangerous play to make, so close to the midterms.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Ease the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.