ACLU Opposes Journalism Bill That Would Harm Press Freedoms and Free Speech Online

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) would significantly interfere with the First Amendment rights of platforms, and the public’s ability to access news

June 15, 2023 9:53 am

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WASHINGTON — In a letter sent to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the American Civil Liberties Union appreciates the Speaker’s opposition to the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), and asks the House of Representatives to join him in continuing to block it from being passed into law. The JCPA would create an exemption from antitrust law to enable news organizations to collectively bargain with platforms that access their content. If passed, this bill would significantly interfere with the First Amendment rights of platforms, and the public’s ability to access news and other factual information.

The First Amendment protects a platform’s ability to choose what content it carries. However, the JCPA enables a news organization to force a platform to display their content merely by joining a negotiating entity. By effectively compelling platforms to host the content of a news organization that joins a given negotiating entity, this legislation violates the First Amendment. The bill also harms the very concepts it intends to protect. Rather than increase support for local journalism and reduce news deserts, the JCPA will limit the public’s access to news, and jeopardize the free and open internet that is vital to modern society.

“The JCPA is harmful to anyone who values access to information, free speech, and a free and open internet,” said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel for the ACLU. “We thank Speaker McCarthy for continuing to do his part to protect these vital components of democracy by committing to block the JCPA from passing through the House.”

Today, nearly half of Americans get their news from social media, and many more get their news through search engines. Consumers rely on links and the snippets of information from them to know what news is relevant and interesting to them. However, by making platforms pay to access and display these facts, this legislation would make it harder for consumers to find news on social media, or in their search results. Platforms would likely choose not to link to news at all, or charge customers to view it.

The ACLU has long opposed this legislation for interfering with the First Amendment rights of platforms, and the public’s ability to access news and other factual information. The ACLU urges members of the House of Representatives to join Speaker McCarthy in protecting the First Amendment and the free flow of information by not sponsoring the JCPA.

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