We hope that the results of December’s runoff election in Georgia mean that Gigi Sohn’s long-delayed FCC nomination will finally move forward. As The Washington Post reported, Sohn — a former FCC staffer and the founder of Public Knowledge — has faced an unprecedented barrage of attack ads from shady dark-money groups lying about her record and views.
Sohn has been waiting over a year for a vote in the Senate, and Democratic leadership hasn’t done her any favors, dragging her through multiple hearings and delays and leaving her undefended from slanderous attacks. As this recent podcast Craig did with The Verge reveals, industry lobbyists who want a weakened and deadlocked FCC have orchestrated all of this.
There’s still a window in the so-called lame-duck session for the Senate to do what it should have done months and months ago and vote in Sohn so the FCC can finally function at full strength. The election is over, the excuses are tired, and the only way anything gets done in the next two years will be through regulatory agencies. This can’t wait for 2023.
JCPA: No way!
We had another important win recently when we helped thwart an attempt to attach the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to a must-pass defense-spending bill.
While it’s touted as a way to help local journalism and stick it to Big Tech, the JCPA is really a massive giveaway to Big Media companies like Fox, Sinclair and the hedge-fund vultures at Alden Global Capital that have pumped out right-wing propaganda over the public airwaves and obliterated local newsrooms.
As Craig details in a new piece published at Tech Policy Press, the behind-the scenes story of the JCPA is that lawmakers ignored public-interest groups every time — going back two years — we raised good-faith concerns about this bill. And every revision just added more favors for the old-line incumbents. A couple of weeks ago, we caught lobbyists sneaking in a measure to exclude nonprofit news outlets from the bill’s financial benefits.
We’ve been sounding the alarm for a long time about how reality doesn’t match the myths being spread about this legislation. Yet we keep being told that something is better than nothing, and that if it’s bad for Google and Meta it must be good for the rest of us.
We need to end the willful ignorance where any corporate actor or devious politician who claims to be against the tech giants is suddenly a benevolent force. If you actually want to help local communities, then you need policies that confront the power and undue influence of both Fox and Facebook, Gannett and Google (and Comcast and AT&T, too).
We’re working on those policies and building a coalition capable of making them happen without handouts to the same companies that have done so much damage to local newsrooms, communities of color and our democracy.
And between now and the end of the year, we need to stay vigilant to ensure that the JCPA doesn’t sneak into the omnibus spending package Congress could pass in its last few days in session.
Musk we continue like this?
All we wanted was an edit function — and instead we got a self-destruct button.
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been even worse than we imagined. Thousands of workers were sacked or quit. Donald Trump and a swarm of neo-Nazis got reinstated. Journalists daring to hold Musk accountable are getting banned. And the already faltering trust-and-safety system is being bulldozed.
In the weeks since Jessica met with Musk alongside civil-rights leaders — and he lied to their faces — our #StopToxicTwitter campaign has helped push hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and 50 percent of Twitter’s top advertisers off the platform (though Musk did much of the work to alienate advertisers himself). We’ve also been organizing global leaders to speak out about how Twitter’s tumult endangers human rights.
We’ve been rapidly responding to the near-daily outrages and got more press coverage last month on Musk’s meltdown than on any topic ever. Some of the more notable of November’s 2,400 press hits include Jessica speaking to The Washington Post multiple times about Musk’s empty promises; Senior Counsel Nora Benavidez’s appearances in stories about election misinformation on NPR and in The New York Times; Nora’s quotes in this prominent Post story on Musk reviving banned accounts; and Nora’s discussion of Spanish-language disinformation on WBUR’s Here & Now and Musk on Democracy Now!
Wait, there’s more …
A few other recent highlights we didn’t want to leave out:
- On Dec. 7, Free Press Action filed a brief at the Supreme Court in the Gonzalez v. Google case. We argued that Section 230 is a necessary law that lowers barriers to people sharing their own content online. We also advocated for careful interpretations of the law that clarify platforms’ liability for their own knowingly harmful actions.
- The powerful short film our Media 2070 team created — Black in the Newsroom — won best documentary at film festivals in Atlanta and Detroit this fall. Poynter recently interviewed director and Free Press VP Collette Watson along with the subject of the film, former Arizona Republic reporter Elizabeth Montgomery.
- Don’t miss Jessica’s interview with the Haas, Jr. Fund about our work at Free Press.
Free Press is now in our final fundraising push of the year — and a generous donor has agreed to double all donations received by Dec. 31 up to our $50,000 goal. We don’t take money from business, government or political parties and rely on contributions from charitable foundations and individual donors to power our work.
Thank you so much — and happy holidays from all of us at Free Press!