Guest Column: New polling shows Coloradans broadly support curbing Big Tech’s influence in news
The news that Sheryl Sandberg would be stepping down from her role as chief operating officer at Facebook has reignited the conversation over the power of Big Tech companies in the United States.
Sandberg’s tenure at Facebook included high-profile instances of Facebook’s abuse of data privacy and amplifications of Russian-sourced misinformation during the 2016 presidential election. It also overlapped with the rise of Big Tech monopolies, which have amassed far too much control over our economy and our politics, and over the news, content and information we gather and read.
Alphabet and Facebook — through their news aggregator sites, Google News and Facebook News sites — have used their economic and political might to gain control over the vast majority of the news and information Coloradans consume by appropriating the work of small, local and independent journalists.
Put another way, Google News and Facebook News have come to dominate the news and publishing space by expropriating the work of smaller and local operators, who don’t have the capacity to fight back against these tech giants.
To be sure, Coloradans recognize the threat of Big Tech’s stranglehold over the news and media space and are united in their desire to curb Big Tech’s outsized power and influence.
New polling by Schoen Cooperman Research — which was conducted among a representative sample of Colorado adults and commissioned by News Media Alliance — shows widespread concern over Big Tech’s power, as well as strong support for reforms to rein in Big Tech monopolies.
Three-quarters of Coloradans are generally concerned about the economic and political power of Big Tech companies — and are even more troubled by the power that Big Tech companies have over the news industry and especially over small, local, independent journalists.
Indeed, roughly 4-in-5 Coloradans are concerned that Big Tech companies have too much power over the news and publishing industries (83%), and that Big Tech companies manipulate the news and publishing industries for their own gain (79%).
In the same vein, Coloradans are broadly concerned that Big Tech companies are driving small and local news outlets out of business (80%), and largely agree that Big Tech’s monopoly over the news industry is a threat to the free press and is unfair to small and local news outlets (82%).
Not only are Coloradans widely worried about the power and undue influence of Big Tech companies — they are also strongly supportive of elected officials in Washington, D.C., taking steps to address the issue.
Roughly three-quarters of Colorado adults agree with statements referencing the need for Congress to take action, including: “I support Congress taking steps to give small and local publishers more power in negotiations with Big Tech companies” (77%) 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” (73%).
Further, majorities of Coloradans decidedly support Congress allowing news publishers to band together to collectively negotiate fairer terms for use of their content by Big Tech (71%) and increasing regulations on Big Tech in order to curb their power over the news and publishing industries (59%).
Importantly, Coloradans indicate that a political candidate’s support for these reforms — or lack thereof — could impact their vote in an election. By a four-to-one margin, Colorado adults would be more likely, rather than less likely, to support a candidate for Congress who backed the aforementioned reforms.
In terms of the specific reforms Congress can enact, our survey sought to determine support for a proposed piece of bipartisan legislation that was introduced earlier this year, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act . The JCPA would allow news publishers to negotiate fair terms for use of their content by Big Tech companies.
After seeing a brief description of the bill, strong majorities of Coloradans we surveyed support Congress passing the JCPA (69%) and believe it is important for Congress to do so (64%). And, by nearly a 4-1 margin, Coloradans would be more likely, rather than less likely, to support a candidate for Congress who supported passing the JCPA.
To that end, seven in 10 Coloradans agree with the statement: “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.”
In my experience as a professional pollster who has worked in the industry for more than 40 years, it is rare for an issue to attract such widespread, bipartisan support. Colorado’s elected officials from both parties now have an opportunity to support the JCPA, which our data indicates could have a positive electoral impact for these members.
Put plainly, Coloradans are deeply concerned about Big Tech’s outsized influence, its manipulation of the news industry, and the threats posed to small, local, independent media.
Fortunately, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is viable a solution that would put an end to Big Tech’s market manipulation and selfish profiteering — which has hurt local journalism immensely — while making the news industry freer and fairer.
Douglas Schoen is an American lawyer, political analyst, author, lobbyist and commentator.