Big Tech is a big deal. Their platforms have been used to distort our democratic processes. Their control over the media advertising industry is — in the eyes of many — monopolistic. During the pandemic, when many Americans were suffering from illness and a crumbling economy, big tech companies were making obscene amounts of money. And their intrusions into our daily lives have literally reshaped our brains.
Independent local newspapers have also suffered under Big Tech’s rule.
Alphabet and Meta – and their respective products, Google News and Facebook News – have used their economic and political power to take control of the vast majority of news and information consumed by Coloradans by appropriating the work of newspapers and journalists. independents, who do not. have the ability to fight back against these tech giants.
This was possible, in part, because Big Tech was able to set all the rules. And these rules prioritized their own financial gain. They decide where, when, and how people consume the news, even if they aren’t involved in reporting, printing, or publishing the vast majority of that content.
But pay for that content, they don’t. So while Big Tech raked in billions of dollars ($38 billion in profits in a single quarter during the darkest months of the pandemic), hundreds of local newspapers were forced to downsize or shut down altogether.
As less fortunate local news sources dwindle and disappear, the information vacuum left in their absence fills with “news” designed not to inform but to generate clicks. This “news” allows misinformation to proliferate, divisive content to sow discord in our communities, and partisanship to harden, solidify, and become irreconcilable. It already feels like we are missing a set of shared facts to inform our worldview – what will happen if we continue down this path?
Certainly, Coloradans recognize the threat of Big Tech’s stranglehold on the news and support efforts to curb Big Tech’s outsized power and influence. A new poll – which was commissioned by News Media Alliance – shows widespread concern about the power of Big Tech, as well as strong support for reforms to curb these monopolies. Indeed, 83% fear that Big Tech companies have too much power over the news and publishing industries.
One potential reform that could help curb the greedy influence of Big Tech is the Journalism Preservation and Competition Act.
Quality and trustworthy journalism is expensive. The JCPA — a bill with bipartisan sponsorship — is designed to bolster our free press by allowing news publishers to negotiate fair terms for the use of their content by Big Tech companies. And recent changes to the bill have increased the chances of its passage – including the introduction of a measure to assuage union concerns as well as an addendum to ensure that black money organizations like the network of Russian state-controlled television do not inadvertently benefit.
Similar bills have helped local media thrive in Australia, Canada and Europe. In the United States, such a measure could bring much-needed revenue to local newsrooms. So, like publications across the country, we urge Congress to support the JCPA in helping independent newspapers fulfill their mission to provide the public with reliable and trustworthy information, to hold the powerful to account, and to ensure that that government—from Washington to Colorado to Sterling—serves all of its citizens.
Unfortunately, none of Colorado senators Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper signed on to co-sponsor the JCPA. In the House, however, unlikely allies Reps. Ken Buck and Joe Neguse co-sponsored a similar antitrust reform package targeting Big Tech. All four should now put their efforts behind the JCPA.
Because, to put it plainly, Coloradans are deeply concerned about Big Tech’s outsized influence, its manipulation of the news industry, and the threats posed to small local and independent media outlets.
Fortunately, the JCPA is a viable solution that would help end Big Tech’s market manipulation and selfish profits while making the news industry freer, fairer, and a better product for those who matter most. : the people.