Senator Al Franken (D-MN) gave an important speech yesterday at the Open Markets Institute in Washington, D.C. The theme was the role of the tech giants in our political and economic life, and the concept behind “net neutrality.” He was particularly critical of Facebook and Google, saying “Big tech has taken it upon itself to sort through all the viewpoints, news, and entertainment, and decide for us what we should read, watch, buy, or even how we should engage in civil society. And they’re doing it all under the shadow of complicated algorithms that make little sense to either the content creators whose livelihood depends on them or the users whose everyday decisions they’re controlling.”
He also advocated strongly for transparency and the protection of personal data.
Franken acknowledged the uphill battle news publishers are facing when fighting the big two for advertising dollars. “With this unprecedented power, platforms have both the incentive and the ability to redirect into their own pockets the advertising dollars that once fueled the newspaper business. And news publishers fighting for eyes are forced to navigate Facebook and Google’s optimization policies, which have previously prevented news organizations from using paywalls or offering subscription services and have driven journalists to write stories that they know will be promoted in Google Search, on News Feeds, and in the “trending” section of Facebook,” he said. “While I appreciate the companies’ recent efforts to ensure that publishers and journalists are more adequately compensated, the end result may be the same: journalism for the masses and the never-ending search for the next viral story.”
The News Media Alliance applauds Franken for this critically needed honesty. We are advocating for the right of publishers to be able to negotiate collectively with the tech giants, and it is always heartening to see political leaders acknowledge the growing problem of these companies as gatekeepers to information. To read his full speech, please click here.
David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.