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The Challenge of Standing Up to Big Tech
The dominance of Google, Facebook, and other big tech companies in the world’s information ecosystem poses a significant challenge for journalists and campaigners. As social media platforms and search engines control the lion’s share of advertising budgets, high-quality journalism struggles to secure a viable future. In 2021, Australia attempted to address this issue by introducing a code to govern interactions between Big Tech and news publishers. However, Facebook’s retaliation in blocking Australian users from accessing news sites showcased the power these platforms hold.
The Global Push for News Media Bargaining Codes
Since the Australian experience, governments worldwide have proposed their own versions of the News Media Bargaining Code. While some aim to fix the imbalanced market relationships between publishers and platforms, others seek to regulate the entire digital marketplace. Canada and the lower house of the California legislature have already passed laws similar to Australia’s, and the UK is currently considering legislation.
A Shared Framework: Principles for Fair Compensation
Journalists, activists, and academics from around the world gathered in Johannesburg to develop a shared framework called ‘Big Tech and Journalism: Principles for Fair Compensation.’ These principles emerged from conferences held in various locations and emphasize high-level objectives such as supporting public interest journalism and promoting diversity and plurality. They discourage discriminatory practices against smaller publishers and prevent preferential arrangements with politically powerful news organizations.
Ensuring Fair Compensation for News Providers
To build a sustainable future for journalism, it is crucial to ensure that news providers receive fair compensation when sharing their content via platforms, search engines, or aggregators. This includes a fair share of data and revenue generated from their journalism. Otherwise, news publishers may be forced into unfair terms with the platforms or withdraw their content altogether, leaving space for misinformation and disinformation to thrive.
Navigating Media Regulation in the Global South
While wealthier countries grapple with big tech regulation, the challenges are even more pronounced in developing economies of the Global South. Proposals to regulate the relationship between social media and news media in countries like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa raise concerns about potential risks. Striking a balance between preventing watering down of legislation by big tech and avoiding media economy control by autocratic governments is vital.
Empowering Journalism and Building a Democratic Public Sphere
The shared principles aim to encourage policymakers to ensure transparency, political independence, and public accountability in regulatory systems. Standing up to tech giants is not about seeking their destruction, but about fostering democratic societies that combine high-quality public interest journalism with the power of new media platforms. Despite limited resources and funding challenges, journalists and campaigners can unite behind these principles to advocate for the public interest and create a public sphere that benefits all, not just a select few corporations.