Polling shows both sides of the aisle support reining in Big Tech
Elon Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter essentially gives the world’s richest person complete control over one of the most powerful social media and news platforms.
There are legitimate and serious concerns surrounding Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, specifically with regard to the outsized influence that he will now have over the site’s content and handling of user data. But even more importantly, Musk’s Twitter takeover is illustrative of a much, much bigger problem with Big Tech in the United States.
Big Tech monopolies have amassed far too much control over society — over our daily lives, our economy and especially over the news, content and information we gather and read.
Oftentimes, Big Tech’s power is concentrated in the hands of just a few individuals who are primarily motivated by a desire to turn profits or promulgate a particular worldview. The worst part is that America’s antitrust and anti-monopoly laws are so outdated that these monopolies are essentially given free rein to operate in this way.
This is especially the case in the news and publishing industries, as Big Tech companies like Alphabet and Meta — through sites like Google News and Facebook News — have come to dominate this space by expropriating the work of smaller and local operators via their news aggregator sites.
This is not only blatantly unfair — it is a threat to our democracy.
To be sure, the American people not only understand the gravity of this threat but moreover, are united on the need to curb Big Tech’s undue power and unjust profiteering in the news and publishing industries.
New polling by Schoen-Cooperman Research — which was conducted among a representative sample of U.S. adults, and commissioned by News Media Alliance — reveals broad public concern over Big Tech’s outsized influence with respect to news and publishing, as well as widespread support for reforms to rein in these monopolies.
Indeed, roughly 4-in-5 Americans are concerned that Big Tech companies have too much power over the news and publishing industries (79 percent) and manipulate these industries for their own gain (78 percent).
Approximately three-quarters of U.S. adults surveyed (76 percent) also worry that Big Tech companies are driving small and local news outlets out of business, and agree that “Big Tech’s monopoly over the news and publishing industries is a threat to the free press and unfair to publishers, especially to small and local outlets.”
In addition to being broadly concerned about this problem, the American public is supportive of elected officials in Washington, D.C. taking action to fix it.
Americans surveyed widely agree with statements to this effect, including “I support Congress taking steps to give small and local publishers more power in negotiations with Big Tech companies” (81 percent) as well as “Congress needs to rein in Big Tech by passing reforms that would make the publishing industry fairer for smaller media entities and local operators” (77 percent).
To that end, majorities explicitly support Congress passing laws that would allow news publishers to band together to collectively negotiate fairer terms for use of content by Big Tech (71 percent) and increase regulations on Big Tech in order to curb their power over the news and publishing industries (57 percent).
Importantly, Americans also indicate that a political candidate’s support for these reforms — or lack thereof — could impact their vote in an election. By roughly a three-to-one margin, Americans would be more likely, rather than less likely, to back political candidates for Congress who support the aforementioned reforms.
With respect to specific actions Congress can take, our survey assessed public support for a specific piece of legislation that was introduced this year known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). This is a bipartisan proposal that would allow news publishers to negotiate, under the authority of a federal intermediary, fair terms for use of their content by Big Tech companies.
Notably, strong majorities of the American public support Congress passing the JCPA (70 percent) and believe it is important for Congress to pass the JCPA (64 percent) after reading a brief description of the bill. And by a four-to-one margin, U.S. adults would be more likely, rather than less likely, to back a candidate for Congress who supported the JCPA.
Additionally, more than two-thirds of the public (69 percent) agrees that “elected officials who oppose the JCPA are allowing Big Tech companies to continue manipulating the news and publishing industries for their own gain, leaving small and local publishers powerless.”
On a personal note, in my experience as a professional pollster who has worked in the industry for more than 40 years, it is rare for an issue or piece of legislation to garner this level of broad-based public support.
The American public wants to rein in Big Tech, and elected officials from both parties have an opportunity to pass the JCPA, or a similar version of the bill, on a bipartisan basis — which our data indicates could have a demonstrably positive electoral impact for these members.
For the Biden administration, leading the charge on the JCPA or comparable legislation also presents a much-needed opportunity to improve their standing and stature — along with my other bipartisan recommendations for the administration, such as compromise on immigration.
Further, by passing this legislation with a bipartisan majority, President Biden and Congress can send a clear and resounding message to Big Tech companies that they will be held accountable going forward.
If America is to have a news industry, an economy, and a country that is truly free and fair, Congress must stop allowing Big Tech companies to operate unrestrained. Our leaders can start by passing legislation like the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act into law.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an adviser to former President Clinton and to the 2020 presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg. He is the author of “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”
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