How to Understand Big Tech’s Degredation of Media
Last Updated on March 25, 2021 by Shaun Snapp
- Big Tech has degraded US media.
- This erosion has placed control over the media with companies that have no interest in supporting free expression.
Big Tech has been instrumental in degrading the quality of media available to the public. The primary way they have done this is by vacuuming up a substantial portion of the income sources used to support the US media system. In this article, we will lay out how this was accomplished and the implications for the media system in the US.
PBS Video on News Deserts and the Implications
The following video describes how this process occurred.
Experiences from a Newspaper Acquired by a Hedge Fund
This video illustrates how little these hedge funds care about the quality of the product provided to readers. Much of what hedge funds/private equity does is monetize the established asset by degrading the quality and scope of the coverage that was historically offered while selling out more to advertisers — and censoring the publication of material that corporations would not want to be published.
How Big Tech Leverages its Power to Undermine Freedom of Speech
Google and all Big Tech are “in the tank” for establishing the Democratic Party in the US. (Not to be confused with true progressives. The Democratic Party is highly connected to Wall Street and opposes most progressive programs).
Where is Politically Independent Coverage?
This is part of a background where political media has become increasingly aligned with one of the two monopolistic parties. It has become increasingly difficult to find media sources that have not aligned themselves with one of the two parties. At one time, I used to subscribe to the periodical/website The Atlantic, which was a very high-quality progressive publication. However, The Atlantic has become so doctrinal, and in bed with the Democratic Party, I stopped reading it.
The same thing occurred with The New York Times, which introduced a WOKE initiative called the 1619 project that changed the US’s founding date to be 1619, which is quite demonstrably false.
Most of the major US media and all of the major Big Tech firms were caught red-handed, censoring the Hunter Biden email story. Big Tech de-emphasized articles that covered the story. Establishment media outlets used the terms “conspiracy theory,” “debunked,” “unverified” to describe the story, even though the story was 100% true.
This is a combination of concentration and politicization of US media is an extremely negative development and is compounded by Big Tech also being strongly politically biased. Google, Facebook, The New York Times, Microsoft, Salesforce, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, …and the Washington Post (which is owned by Amazon and is very big on promoting whatever Jeff Bezos’ personal views area and which uses the ridiculous tagline “Democracy Dies in Darkness,”) and most other media now support and actively advocate for one US political party. Fox News and a much smaller number of influential outlets advocate for the other political party. None of these outlets has any interest in bringing information to light that undermines their political alignment.
And the political bias is even worse than this.
This is because, in a free system, Big Tech (and the major media outlets they are highly connected to) would provide equal footing to non-party aligned information (that is, information and ideas that both parties opposed and which politically powerful lobby groups oppose — single-payer health care being one — which due to health care lobbying, neither party will support). However, each party consistently suppresses non-establishment ideas, normally categorizing them as “too radical,” “too left,” or “too right.” Through simple categorization of this type, they don’t even have to bother with addressing the positives and negatives of the idea. They do not have to provide any evidence or worry about making any mental effort of any kind. This affects eliminating any idea that would challenge what the elites want to happen because it is too (fill_in_the_blank). They combine everything just mentioned with taking the position of one of the two political parties. All ideas must be approved by the political parties, which means they must be approved by the elite, the donors who tell each political party what is acceptable and what is not.
Let us run down the list of major items, shall we?
- Tax cuts are acceptable and are presented as stimulative. (Most tax cuts passed in the present era in the US are primarily for the wealthy.)
- Defense expenditures are acceptable, and all wars are patriotic and defensive in nature.
- No change to the present health care system is acceptable.
- No change to how campaigns are financed is acceptable.
- No discussion of regulating monopolies is acceptable.
- WOKE signaling is not only acceptable but is highly encouraged. However, nothing that actually improves the condition of workers or their rights versus employers will be tolerated.
Along with Big Tech, the established media also excuse or cover up corruption in their aligned political party while only pointing out corruption in the other political party.
Big Tech and most media increasingly seek to think about the reader rather than present evidence to come to their own conclusion. Internal emails show that Big Tech believes that they have unquestioned correct views and should have the right to control what their readers or users see. This leads to some extraordinary statements from our elite media. Upon reviewing the Hunter Biden emails, one democratic booster stated that he did not know if the emails showing corruption were true and did not care. This is a downright weird comment.
Big Tech Equals Big Censorship
Big Tech has become increasingly in censorship. Each of the Big Tech firms has a fake censorship policy that they selectively use when they don’t like or agree with the content (article, video, audio, etc..). This censorship falls under the idea of “reducing hate” or “copyright violation” (which is why the film Planet of the Humans was censored for a supposedly 4-second clip that was not properly copyright referenced). However, the real issue is that the film called out powerful environmental organizations that had sold out to the energy industry.
All that is necessary is to identify the content as offensive to some group or corporation, and the content can be demonetized or de-emphasized. I wrote the following article What is the Real Story of How IBM Will Use Red Hat, and an IBM consultant labeled the article as a “hate article.” Naturally, all of the Big technology companies would love to have some excuse to censor critical information.
- IBM does not want you to know how they actually function and would prefer you got all of your information about them from IBM.com or from one of the many media outlets they pay for glowing articles.
- Apple does not want you to know that many of their products are made in prison camps and then re-labeled as being from different factories and that they barely pay tax as they perform transfer pricing through Ireland, which is now a tax haven. Anything that critiques these behaviors is naturally hated speech (or, as we will see, misinformation).
This is why the term hate speech is so baseless. It is merely a way of limiting speech that the powerful entity does not want to be published.
Furthermore, I found something very odd when looking up the definition of hate speech.
There is no problem here (although it’s unclear if describing the underhanded tricks IBM uses versus its clients or how they hire foreign workers on student visas qualifies as prejudice). This definition seems clear.
But the problem arises when looking for the inverse.
Nearly all terms have an inverse. Why is there no definition listed for “love speech?” What if you promote something? Why wouldn’t that be love speech?
How can a term be legitimate if it has no inverse?
What is Misinformation?
Misinformation is another term that is frequently used. However, what is misinformation? It has a real definition, but its use does not comport with this definition? Is this false information? Normally, we have a process by which we disprove false information by either asking for evidence or providing contradictory evidence. However, categorizing something as misinformation frequently occurs without the evidence provided that the information/misinformation is false. Big Tech constantly provides false information through their websites and their marketing, salespeople, PR, and their HR, but we ordinarily don’t call this misinformation. Why is that?
Furthermore, when I have written articles that call out false information from technology companies, I have been told that no for-profit company should be held to providing truthful information because they have to maximize profits and satisfy shareholders. That is, lying is fine only but under commercial circumstances. Under this logic, lying for commercial gain is a virtue but verboten for one’s personal gain.
Given this backdrop, I have to question if Big Tech should be arbitrating what is and is not misinformation and how serious those that use the term “misinformation” really are about false information. And again, I am not sure misinformation actually translates to false information, instead of being a derogatory label or categorization to apply to information that is not sanctioned by gatekeepers for publication. Misinformation is not the only categorization term designed to elicit evidence-free dismissal of this type. Other terms frequently used by the establishment media include “debunked,” “conspiracy theory,” “not verified,” and “left-wing” or “right-wing.”
Therefore, we now have debunked conspiracy theories that are unverified — with the only redeeming feature is that they are also true.
The More Media is Influenced and Channeled by Big Tech, the Worse the State of Freedom of Speech
As an increasing percentage of media has come under Big Tech’s influence, they have demonstrated that they will not hold up the established norms of freedom of speech, and they will censor whenever they can. However, incredibly inaccurate content will not be de-emphasized as long as it comports with their political views or promotes their businesses. Furthermore, as media has become concentrated, the US government has shown little interest in restricting this consolidation and little interest in reigning in Big Tech. Big Tech is now so powerful and so wealthy that they are generally cannot be regulated. The only time they will modify their behavior is when, as in the Hunter Biden emails, they are caught so red-handed that they feel their credibility is damaged. Twitter, for example, changed their handling of the impression of the Hunter Biden emails and shares that discussed the Hunter Biden emails, however not because of government action, but instead because they were socially shamed into doing so.
Big Tech can be viewed as a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks up the money available to support media but provides nothing but “pointers” to content. That is search results, recommendations to content on platforms like Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn. However, they don’t “do” much of anything. Others create this content, and for which they are paid increasingly poorly, with the industry being able to support fewer and fewer journalists with a decent salary. Google has been instrumental in thousands of newspapers going out of business in the US. The following quotations explain this.
The number of newspapers in the United States declined from 8,891 in 2004 to 6,736 at the beginning of this year. Most are in small communities. – KIMT3
As the demand for news has exploded, so have consumers of the output of newspapers. Both nytimes.com and washingtonpost.com, for instance, rank among the top 20 global news sites. But those consumers are now reading newspapers online for free, and although newspapers have been able to convert some of that viewership into ad dollars, it is a trickle compared to previous sources. At most newspapers, Web advertising accounts for only 10–15% of revenues. – Wikipedia
Over the last 15 years, half the newsroom jobs at U.S. newspapers have been eliminated, as private equity vultures strip-mine some of America’s last remaining newspapers for short-term profits. Cities as big as Pittsburgh now have no daily print newspaper at all.
The pandemic has accelerated this crisis in journalism, with a bloodbath of layoffs, asset sales, and newspaper shutdowns.
When investigative journalists become an endangered species, it’s a catastrophe for democracy. Every time a newspaper closes or a reporter is laid off, it becomes a little easier for politicians to line their pockets and for corporations to abuse workers, pollute the environment, and rip off customers.
The Intercept rejects the short-term, self-defeating approach of cutting newsroom staff to squeeze out profits. In fact, we’re a nonprofit, and we don’t run ads on our website. The generous support of readers gives our reporters the freedom and resources they need to stand up to the most powerful forces in society. – The Intercept
Big Tech aggregates and consumes much of the money used to go to media and journalists to themselves. Big Tech clearly demands and has set up a system where they are paid enormous sums of money for doing close to no work. They further think they should also regulate what content is viewed based upon their arbitrary rules, which comes down to whether they personally like the content and whether it is profit-maximizing to their company, and whether it supports their political bias. Furthermore, as this system goes on longer, Big Tech continues to worsen the deal. While Google used to have fewer and more innocuous ads on their search results, 1/2 of the Google search result page is ads, and 1/2 of the page are the actual search results. That was not the original deal that Google offered users of its search engine.
Ordinarily, the way an entity takes control of an area is through acquisition. This occurred in the case of Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn. In the article How LinkedIn Has Degraded as a Content Platform, Microsoft’s impact on LinkedIn has been to degrade the platform’s content portion so that the worst and most commercial content is preferenced in shares while increasing the prices of LinkedIn memberships.
However, the vast majority of media degradation has not come through Big Tech’s acquisition, but instead by Big Tech pulling the money from the system from media to itself. In this area, Google has been the biggest offender, with Craigslist being similar (going after the revenues newspapers used to rely on from classified ads.) Without revenue from the traditional sources, media entities can grow ever closer to industry for money. This had greatly devalued these media firms, either forcing them out of business or making them susceptible to purchase at fire-sale prices, such as when a Chinese construction firm purchased Forbes. ComputerWeekly publishes articles for the sole purpose of obtaining contact information that is then shared with IT vendors and service providers, which is covered in the article Computer Weekly as a Marketing Automation Front. ComputerWeekly and all TechTarget publications are not actually media. They are a front for lead generation.
IT media is little differentiated from the bridal magazine media segment. Bridal magazines write articles that make readers desire to spend money on wedding gowns, wedding venues, wedding rings, floral arrangements, etc.. The entire objective of bridal magazines is to create demand, and they are then paid by companies that can make money in the space. This is why IT media is so limp. They serve as an extension of the marketing and PR departments of the companies in that industry. I routinely read IT articles where most of the article is quotes from an executive at a company, without questioning the article’s author’s quote.
Who Owns Major Media and What is its Concentration?
Media is increasingly concentrated among a smaller number of owners. And within this paradigm, media entities such as Forbes or The Denver Post media entities are owned by companies that could not care less about independent media and only view media as profit maximization. Private equity functions by purchasing and then degrading a company by lowering quality and cutting costs. It also puts companies into the hands of people with money, but no knowledge of the business or consideration for either their customers or employees has been instrumental in reducing media quality.
However, like research, media cannot be profit maximized and function as it is intended. As soon as one attempts to maximize profit media, provides false information to its readers. In the case of Forbes being purchased by a Chinese firm, Forbes stopped employing journalists or even editors and sell space on their website for companies to the highest bidder. Anyone reading this can publish anything in Forbes by simply paying Forbes some money. This is how to maximize the profits for media and allow the industry to write the entire articles. Forbes both does this and then also has advertising. This means that Forbes sells the article and sells advertising that surrounds the article, which is also advertising. In the past, advertising-supported content. Now the entirety of Forbes is advertising, and there is no authentic content. Furthermore, Forbes is not controlled by the Chinese government, and there won’t be anything published in Forbes with which the Chinese government disagrees. And what I just explained is known by almost none of Forbes’s readers, as there is so little coverage of these facts.
International Implications of Big Tech Behavior
This not only affects US media, where Big Tech is located (China has its own Big Tech that serves the domestic Chinese market, but which no one but Chinese care about), but it also negatively impacts the media in other countries. Nearly all of the material that I found addressed the US media market. However, I have to imagine implications for non-US media, and countries outside of the US should are similar. What I can’t figure out is why I can’t find much written about the topic.
These people living in these countries should be livid at what US tech companies are doing to their media. And with a degraded media, Big Tech is also undermining the US and other countries’ political stability. Furthermore, Big Tech has proven extremely willing to accommodate dictatorial regimes, as Google did in China.