Opinion: Big Tech’s power over the free press should be limited

Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years, and survivors face unprecedented challenges trying to maintain both the economic viability and lifeblood of their communities.

All the while, big technology monopolies like Alphabet and Meta, through sites like Google News and Facebook News, have come to dominate the news and publishing industries, expropriating the work of smaller, local operators through their news aggregation sites.

The Founding Fathers enshrined the protection of a press free from government regulation in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, as a free and diverse press is the foundation of a healthy and vibrant republic. But the Founders could not imagine a future in which almost all news and information would be controlled by just a handful of individuals.

This is not only a flagrant injustice – it is a threat to a free press and, therefore, to democracy itself.

The American people not only understand the gravity of this threat, but are also united in the need to curb Big Tech’s undue power and unfair speculation in the news and publishing industries.

A new Schoen-Cooperman Research poll commissioned by the News Media Alliance among a representative sample of U.S. adults reveals widespread public concern about Big Tech’s undue influence over news and publishing, as well as widespread support for Congress taking action to curb these monopolies. .

Indeed, about 4 in 5 Americans are concerned that big tech companies have too much power over the news and publishing industries (79%), manipulate these industries for their own benefit (78%), and run small and local news outlets. does not work (76%).

In addition, about three-quarters of the public agree that “the monopoly of big technology companies in news and publishing is a threat to press freedom and is unfair to publishers, especially small and local publications.” (76%)

In addition to widespread concern about this issue, the American public wants change and hopes that their elected leaders in Washington, DC will do so.

Approximately 4 out of 5 Americans agree with statements to this effect, including: “I support the moves of Congress to give small and local publishers more power in negotiations with large technology companies” (81%), as well as “Congress big companies need to be reined in.” technologies by introducing reforms that will make the publishing industry more equitable for small media companies and local operators” (77%).

In terms of specific reforms, our study measured public support for a specific bill introduced this year known as the Journalistic Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). It’s a bipartisan proposal that would allow news publishers, led by a federal mediator, to negotiate fair terms for big tech companies to use their content.

Notably, after reading the summary of the JCPA, the vast majority of Americans support the Congressional passage of the JCPA (70%) and consider the Congressional passage of the JCPA important (64%).

Respondents also indicated that a political candidate’s support for the JCPA – or lack thereof – would affect their voting in the election. By a four-to-one margin, American adults are more likely, not less likely, to support a congressional candidate who supports the JCPA.

Additionally, 7 out of 10 Americans agree that “elected officials opposed to the JCPA allow big tech companies to continue to manipulate news and the publishing industry for their own benefit, leaving small and local publishers powerless.” (69%)

In addition to supporting the JCPA, the public generally supports overall reforms in this regard. Strong majorities support Congressional legislation that would allow news publishers to band together to collectively negotiate fairer terms for big tech content (71%) and tighten rules on big tech to limit their power over the news and publishing industries (57%). %).

And at about a three-to-one ratio, Americans are more likely, not less likely, to support political candidates who support both reforms.

Over the past two decades, while the world of news and information has changed dramatically with the expansion of big technology, the antitrust and antitrust laws of the United States have not changed with it.

Congress has received a mandate from the American public to curb big tech and enact long overdue reforms that will ensure the survival of local journalism and ultimately make the news industry more just, free, and democratic.

On a personal note, in my experience as a professional sociologist with over forty years in the industry, it is rare for an issue or piece of legislation to receive such widespread and enthusiastic public support.

Elected officials from both parties have a unique opportunity to bring about reforms that are both substantive and politically viable by advancing the JCPA or a similar version of a bill that our data shows will have a clearly positive electoral impact for these members.

If America is to have a truly free and fair news industry, we must stop allowing big tech companies to expropriate the work of small and local publishers without repercussions. Congress can start by passing laws such as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act into law.

Douglas Shawn is a Democratic campaign consultant and author of several books, including The Power of the Voting: Presidential Elections.

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