Klobuchar’s Link Tax Is Back… And Somehow Even Worse? Helps Trumpist Grifters Get Free Money & No Moderation From Google

from the who-are-you-trying-to-help-here dept

So, we’ve talked quite a bit about the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), Senator Amy Klobuchar’s attempt to do Rupert Murdoch’s bidding and force successful internet companies to send cash to media companies for… linking to them. Yes, not only do the news orgs want the traffic from Google, but they also want to get paid for it. This whole scheme was dreamed up by Rupert Murdoch, who after decades of pretending to be about free markets, started demanding the government force internet companies to subsidize him for his own failures to innovate.

The nature of the JCPA is that it allows news organizations to band together into a cartel to “negotiate” with big internet companies to force them to “pay” for “access” where access really means “linking to us and sending us the traffic we crave, and already use search engine optimization tactics to try to increase.” If the big internet companies don’t agree to pay for this thing that does not require payment (on the internet, linking is and must remain fundamentally free), then the cartel can submit an amount they think they should get paid to an arbitrator. The internet company can submit their own alternative, but the arbitrator has to chose, baseball-style, between one of the two submissions, and can’t pick anything else.

Two weeks ago there was a “markup” in which Klobuchar seemed to think she had a deal to push the bill out of committee and onto the floor (despite no real hearings addressing the many, many issues with the bill). However, Ted Cruz blew up the bill by attaching an amendment about content moderation.

Apparently, Klobuchar and Cruz spent the last two weeks negotiating, and now the bill is back up for markup after they came to an agreement… that appears to give Cruz and Trumpist grifter disinfo peddlers exactly what they want. As pointed out by Adam Kovacevich, the new language in the manager’s amendment says that in the “negotiation” internet companies basically can’t even raise content moderation issues.

Again, this gives much more power to Trumpist grifter sites who can band together, demand free cash from Google, and Google is prohibited from saying anything about content moderation issues. It’s… a weird thing for Klobuchar to be on board with, but she’s made it clear in this and other bills that she has no problem helping out Trumpist websites if it means attacking Google and/or the open internet. Seems like strange priorities to me, but what do I know?

Indeed, the Daily Caller, one of many Trumpist grifter sites is already celebrating how the deal “protects conservative media.” When Tucker Carlson’s publication is cheering on a Democrat’s bill for how it will “protect conservative media,” a sensible Democrat might reconsider what they’ve done.

But not Amy Klobuchar! If it’s bad for Google, who cares if it helps out Breitbart and the Daily Caller to spread more nonsense. Great work, Senator.

The co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Kennedy, is now saying out loud that the bill bars content moderation of conservatives:

“We have reached an agreement that clarifies what the bill was designed to do: give local news outlets a real seat at the negotiating table and bar the tech firms from throttling, filtering, suppressing or curating content,” Kennedy’s office told the DCNF. “The only reason I can see for parties to oppose this bill is that they have a problem either with healthy market competition or free speech.”

Kennedy’s final sentence is particularly ridiculous. Free speech includes (outside of the 5th Circuit) editorial discretion. And this bill is a huge attack on editorial discretion in multiple ways. It limits the ability of websites to remove content they find problematic. It forces companies to pay for content that is literally free to link to, it effectively rewrites copyright law. It also does not create “healthy market competition,” when businesses are not even allowed to freely associate or not. There are so, so many reasons to oppose this bill.

As Kovacevich notes, the other big change is that the bill is even more explicit that they are negotiating over “pricing terms” rather than just terms. That’s just doubling down on the fact that this is a tax, even as Klobuchar and fans of this bill (the news industry who will get free money out of it) pretend it’s not a tax.

In my original post about the bill, I had noted that there was no definition of “access” (the bill requires big tech companies to pay for “access”) which made no sense since that was the whole crux of the bill: that you were paying for “access” by linking to sites. In a proposed manager’s amendment that got passed around last week, there was a definition of access included, saying “the term ‘access’ means acquiring, crawling, or indexing content.”

That… would have been really bad, because it’s saying that crawling and indexing might require a fee. That can’t be how anything works.

Oddly, this new manager’s amendment no longer appears to have a definition included for access.

So, again, this bill seems like the worst of all worlds. It forces companies to pay grifters for “access” to sites they might not even want to link to. And, because of the bizarre baseball style arbitration here, we’re fundamentally setting up a system where big companies need to pay to do something that is fundamentally free on the open internet.

This is a horrifically dangerous bill. It takes a sledge hammer to a fundamental principle of the open internet… all to aid Trumpist media grifters. Why is this bill coming from a Democratic Senator?

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Comments on “Klobuchar’s Link Tax Is Back… And Somehow Even Worse? Helps Trumpist Grifters Get Free Money & No Moderation From Google”

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45 Comments
nasch (profile) says:

Re:

Surprised they haven’t adopted a ‘must carry’ provision.

They basically have. The journalism outlets notify the “covered platform” of the intent to negotiate, and the platform is required to negotiate in good faith, including submitting a proposal for a compensation amount. They do not have the option of opting out of negotiation, if I am reading it correctly.

This part is amusing too:

“At any point after a notice is sent to the covered platform to initiate joint negotiations under subsection (a)(2), the eligible digital journalism providers that are members of the joint negotiation entity may jointly deny the covered platform access to content licensed or produced by such eligible digital journalism providers.”

Something they could do already anyway, without any negotiation.

https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/22268617/jcpa.pdf

Anonymous Coward says:

i think the problem is google will be forced to deal with news cartels ,even if the consist of racist extreme trumpist bullshit news or disinformation ,eg its a weird 1984 type scheme to force facebook google to pay to acess links and display news sites even if they do not want to do so ,this is the opposite of free speech and an attack and the right to link to content on the open web

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Koby (profile) says:

Not All Are Believers

Some conservative websites believe this is a trick by democrat negotiators, and Ted Cruz has taken the bait. Particularly, they think that the new language agreed upon allows the media cartels the ability to decide among themselves particular censorship criteria to which content providers will need to agree, prior to becoming part of the cartel that will then negotiate against the big tech companies. Naturally, they will adopt rules to exclude conservative media, if the analysis is true. There’s a chance that Cruz could end his political career if this blows up in his face.

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Naughty Autie says:

The internet company can submit their own alternative, but the arbitrator has to chose, baseball-style, between one of the two submissions, and can’t pick anything else.

Newspapers: “We want 15¢ for each link from a search engine.”
Google et al: “We propose that the newspapers use the Robots Exclusion Protocol to prevent unpaid linking by search engines, rather than demanding money for what they explicitly allow by not using this tool they’ve had access to since 1994.”

Anonymous Coward says:

who after decades of pretending to be about free markets

He’s a SHITTY AS FUCK pretender then.

He fucking LOVES Singapore’s media environment, ie, total information control by ONE entity, ie, the government.

He definitely platformed Trumpists until they got too uppity for HIS taste.

He’s approved of hacking and tampering with voice messages to “get a scoop”, and slandering people unless they have the money to fight back.

He’s a massive fucking threat to humanity and democracy. And he HAS to be stopped, by means fair or foul.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Oy Klobuchar….
1 simple trick and these poor poor media operations could have stopped Google from linking to them at any time.

They haven’t done it because they NEED the traffic Google sends to them, because they thought the internet was a just a fad & never did anything to turn themselves into a must goto website.

While you think you are sticking it to ‘Big Tech’ you are giving corporate welfare to “news” (loose definition because conspiracy sites aren’t news) organizations, rewarding them for doing fuck all for years.

Every country that’s tried this, outside of OZ, has failed. This is Rupert’s wet dream, why would you give the “news” company who still claims Trump was the best guy ever anything they wanted? Their lies are tearing the nation and families apart, and you want to hand them a new revenue stream by stealing money from companies that happen to offer a link to content people are searching for.

In closing, you are a fscking idiot.
What you are doing will make the country more worse off than it already is, but hey you scored some soundbites so all is well. Fsck you, fsck your ilk, and fsck this dumbass bill.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Indeed, the Daily Caller, one of many Trumpist grifter sites is already celebrating how the deal “protects conservative media.” When Tucker Carlson’s publication is cheering on a Democrat’s bill for how it will “protect conservative media,” a sensible Democrat might reconsider what they’ve done.

A useful(to republicans) idiot who only cares about ‘sticking it to big tech’ on the other hand…

When your political enemies are cheering on your actions and boasting about how great it will be for them that’s probably a good sign that you should stop doing it, but I suppose when all you care about is soundbites showing you ‘sticking it to big tech’ and don’t care about anything other than that…

Renmyr (profile) says:

A Suggestion of Ignorance

Disclaimer: I am not in any way condoning or forgiving the multiple levels of deliberate ignorance I’m about to suggest may be a partial culprit. If this actually is the case then everyone involved should be in some sort of education program, not a government.

Anyway. It occurs to me that possibly part of what we’re seeing here is, roughly, the mistaken idea that google is in fact the DNS system. You go to your browser… you type things in the “address bar” (which once actually functioned as an address bar and would hold only valid URLs or send you to an error page, but now takes you by default to, guess where, google)… and lo and behold, google provides you with the website you were looking for, possibly in a list of other similar websites. So if the website isn’t on google, is it really even a website at all? (If you happen to be completely uneducated about the internet.)

This is a stupid idea. It’s not even remotely sensible. A few minutes of reading about the internet and how it works would disabuse one of this notion. But it keeps looking like a thing some people apparently believe, as if being “off google” is the same as having your DNS fail to resolve, rather than just not being on one of multiple search engine results lists. (And, for particularly dense users, I suppose you could argue that’s not all that different, but the internet should not be designed for only particularly dense/uninformed [if new] users. Although, of course, certain large market share companies would like it to be, as long as it makes said people think that one company #cough#facebook#cough# is the internet.)

It may also be the case that even though some people know that technically google is not the DNS system, they think that the way it acts is now sufficiently along the above lines that it is “a distinction without a difference”. Again, more than a little bit stupid, but it’s a position I can see people taking.

Either way, in some unknown and mysterious, unfathomable way (hell, I don’t know where all google’s revenue comes from, although I at least am aware I have the power to at least try to look it up), google, which is “a default component of the internet” (I know it’s not…) have managed to generate a ton of money from the simple act of presenting links. So bear with me here:
* You make a website.
* It is on google. “If It Wasn’t It Wouldn’t Be On The Internet.”
* Google “By Some Unfathomable Magic” generate money from the existence of your website and keep it.
* “But it was your website… wasn’t it?”

That seems like a much more… I hesitate to say reasonable, but at least comprehensible, train of thought that can lead to the system as it stands seeming “unfair”.

For the avoidance of doubt: I think all the above is so much idiocy. I am not advocating for this idiocy, and I have no idea if any of the people involved have ever made statements that prove they’re not this ignorant. (This isn’t my government; I just happen to read this website.) I’m just throwing it out there, in part because it’s worth trying to consider all possible angles rather than “just” the fallback of bribery. If only because staggering ignorance is a different kind of danger than staggering corruption, and both together are a different beast again. Without knowing what the true problem is, it’s hard to even hypothetically solve it. (Not that I know how one would do that anyway.)

(Also: hi! I’ve commented maybe once ever before, so the account is new although the reader is not.)

Naughty Autie says:

Re:

You go to your browser… you type things in the “address bar” (which once actually functioned as an address bar and would hold only valid URLs or send you to an error page, but now takes you by default to, guess where, Google)… and lo and behold, Google provides you with the website you were looking for, possibly in a list of other similar websites.

Er, not in the PC browsers I’ve used. I once had a Windows 7 PC that ran Firefox, in which I used Scroogle as the default search engine. If I’d used the default Internet Explorer instead, I could have changed the search engine in that too. The majority of people use Google because they’re too lazy to look for something better and/or too stupid to change it, no other reason. That’s a big part of how Alphabet got so huge.

Rocky says:

Re: Re:

Er, not in the PC browsers I’ve used.

Once upon a time there where no search engines (well, there were – but they were clunky and not particularly good, if you managed to find them) and no “smart” address bars – you actually had to write the correct address yourself, find it on a page or have someone send it to you.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'I didn't know better' only works for so long

Ignorance is a valid excuse in some situations but when it comes to politicians expectations should rise to meet the level of power and authority they wield, especially on topics that are not new and therefore they have had plenty of time to education themselves on.

As that applies here if she’s not being bribed(and barring some evidence to show such I have no reason to believe she is) the only reasonable explanation would seem to be willful ‘ignorance’ mixed with dishonesty to explain her actions, both of which should absolutely be called out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Rant warning

The idea is quite simple really. What one would expect from pretend conservatives.

Pass enough bad bills and one or two will slip through, especially if they are less ‘obviously’ bad than one’s like this. Lesser of, and all that.

All they need is a shot, and once they get their business plan enshrined as a law, its just money in the bank, day after day, for as long as it holds.

Sure it’ll likely get tossed a year or three down the road, but the pretend conservatives are busy as we speak, trying their damnedest to get control of the law of the land by introducing more bad laws that are as unamerican as mango ala rum cake.

Every time they succeed, its money in the bank for them and less freedom, justice, integrity, and happiness for the great unwashed.

Used to be this sorta attitude was reserved for those planning treason. Now its just another business plan and 100% legal, cuz laws!

Gotta admit though. Watching the American billionaires take over and liquidate America is incredibly educational; if also utterly horrific. Reminds me of those stop action films that show a dead bird decomposing over time.

Problem is, as America falls, so fall we all.

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