Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Checks and Balances

Alex Spence, writing for Politico Europe:

With many people now using smartphones and social media to get news, a handful of huge Silicon Valley companies have amassed disproportionate influence over what we read and view. But they’re not subject to the same checks and balances as the newspapers, radio stations and TV channels that people historically relied on for information.

How to keep the likes of Google and Facebook in check is the subject of a paper published Thursday by the Centre for the Study of Media Communication and Power at King’s College London, which calls for far greater scrutiny of the American tech giants’ power over media and communications.

Martin Moore, the author of that paper, writes:

The tech giants argue they are not equivalent to traditional media organisations and should not be viewed in the same way. They are, they say, only platforms (see, for example, Tamiz vs Google) and they simply act as pathways to enable people to reach content. As platforms that provide access to other content, or ‘mere conduits’ as it is described, they gain legal protection they would not otherwise have, for example through section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (2000) in the US and through exemption from aspects of the European E-commerce directive. Moreover as platforms, they argue, they should not be considered responsible in the same way that traditional media publisher would be. […]

The use of their power to command attention to promote their own views and services takes large information intermediaries beyond neutral platforms, and can give them a political power comparable to that of a broadcaster. The di erence being that, in many democracies, broadcasters are constrained in what they can broadcast and in the political views they themselves can express.

In Britain, and elsewhere, broadcasting was seen as too powerful a medium, and too open to political abuse, to be purely commercial. It was considered to be a ‘utility to be developed as a national service in the public interest’, and is regulated as a public service.

This seems to be more concerning to those of us who live outside of the United States.