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Saving the News from Big Tech

Saving the News from Big Tech, Cory Doctorow, Special Advisor/EFF, June, 2023: “Media is in crisis: newsrooms all over the world are shuttering and the very profession of journalism is under sustained ideological and physical assault. Freedom of the press is a hollow doctrine if the only news media is written or published by independently wealthy individuals who don’t need to get paid for their labor. Where did the media’s money go? It’s complicated…Finance-driven consolidation went beyond the media industry. The companies we call “Big Tech”—Google, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, etc.—attained their scale and reach primarily by buying out their potential competitors, not by inventing new technologies that were so amazing that they beat the competition. That’s true of Facebook, whose founder, Mark Zuckerberg, candidly told his executives, “It is better to buy than to compete,” before going on to buy Instagram and WhatsApp, among dozens of other firms. Apple buys companies more often than most of us buy groceries. Google is a company that had one genuine innovation—a best-of-class search engine—and then used its access to the capital markets to buy a video-sharing company; a mobile operating system company; many, many ad-tech companies; a maps
company; a document-sharing company, etc. Notably, Google’s own in-house products have been a nearly unbroken string of flops, with the main exceptions being a copy of Microsoft’s Hotmail and a browser based on Apple’s old browser engine. And then there’s Microsoft, a convicted monopolist with its own long, long list of acquisitions, a list that grows longer by the day. These companies converted the net to “five giant websites filled with screenshots of the other four,” replacing the dream of “disintermediation” with a new oligarchy of gatekeepers. Together, these companies rigged the ad-market, the app market, and the market for social media. The result is a system that pleases no one—except the tech monopolists’ shareholders…”

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