After the news industry laid off some 2,100 workers from Vice, Gannett, McClatchy, BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blamed “tech monopolies” that have no “incentive to disseminate high-quality, true information.” President Trump blames the press itself: “Fake News and bad journalism have caused a big downturn.”
While these diagnoses of journalism’s ills appear contradictory, both stem from the same root. Allowing a few platforms to control financing and distribution exacerbates the groupthink Mr. Trump rails against.
More than two-thirds of Americans get news from social media. Google and Facebookcontrol a large majority of the digital advertising market that used to be a major source of revenue for the news industry. Tech companies have leveraged their control of news distribution to entrench their advertising dominance. Facebook’s Instant Articles publishes the full text of an article in the platform and shares ad revenue with the publisher. Google punishes publications that raise revenue through subscriptions rather than advertising by downgrading search results of paywalled sites that don’t provide free clicks. Google loosened its restrictions after criticism from publishers and threats of European antitrust enforcement, but it also introduced a “Subscribe With Google” service.
The Internet, Divided Between the U.S. and China, Has Become a Battleground
As China and the West race for 5G dominance, two digital powers with very different approaches to technology are staking out their corners
The global internet is splitting in two.
One side, championed in China, is a digital landscape where mobile payments have replaced cash. Smartphones are the devices that matter, and users can shop, chat, bank and surf the web with one app. The downsides: The government reigns absolute, and it is watching—you may have to communicate with friends in code. And don’t expect to access Google or Facebook.
On the other side, in much of the world, the internet is open to all. Users can say what they want, mostly, and web developers can roll out pretty much anything. People accustomed to China’s version complain this other internet can seem clunky. You must toggle among apps to chat, shop, bank and surf the web. Some websites still don’t seem to be designed with smartphones in mind.
The two zones are beginning to clash with the advent of the superfast new generation of mobile technology called 5G. China aims to be the biggest provider of gear underlying the networks, and along with that it is pushing client countries to adopt its approach to the web—essentially urging some to use versions of the “Great Firewall” that Beijing uses to control its internet and contain the West’s influence.
Battles are popping up around the world as Chinese tech giants try to use their market power at home to expand abroad, something they’ve largely failed to do so far.