ICYMI: Co-founders Bassett, Stanton: “To Save the Press, Congress Must Take on the Tech Monopolies”

In a joint op-ed, co-founders Laura Bassett, and John Stanton for the Daily Beast directly call on members of Congress to do more than just slap the wrists of Google, Apple and Facebook. They must regulate the companies to prevent their monopolistic control of internet traffic and digital advertising revenue from destroying the journalism industry.  

We’ve dealt with robber barons in the past, and Congress and the Department of Justice can handle these digital robber barons today. But action has to come quickly because institutions like the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Chicago Defender, and the Youngstown Vindicator are shutting their doors, leaving millions without access to high quality local news and thousands of journalists out of work. We need to act fast or it may be too late to save the only industry given explicit protections in the Constitution. 

Laura Bassett and John Stanton’s op-ed is excerpted here:

Every week in America seems to bring another newsroom closure, or another announcement of journalist layoffs. 

For months we’ve watched and waited as Congress and other parts of the federal government have pressed Google, Apple, Facebook, and other titans of the digital age on their increasingly monopolistic control of internet advertising revenue. We’ve hoped the pressure might convince them to release the stranglehold on the news business that’s cost us more than 7,200 jobs this year alone and forced venerable institutions like the New Orleans Times-Picayune to shut down. 

…We have a long tradition in this country of regulating privately controlled infrastructure, like our railways and telephone lines, and it’s time to take a similar approach to web browsers and other content platforms, which have become de facto parts of the public square. The browser is the gateway on which so much commerce depends, and the tech giants now unilaterally set the terms of its use. For news publishers, that means they have limited control over reader access to their own content and reduced opportunities to monetize it. And it gives the tech giants outsized influence over the basic dissemination of information to the public.

Regulation of the browser or other platforms would not mean the companies that own them couldn’t make changes or improvements. It simply means that those changes would have to be reviewed in advance to ensure that they do not unfairly harm competition or threaten the extinction of whole industries.