Facebook and Google weaken local news, help spread disinformation
Posted October 17, 2019 in Press Releases
Facebook and Google take in the majority of digital ad revenues, at the expense of newspapers. At the same time, studies show they are filling the void they helped create with disinformation.
Appearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee field hearing in Cleveland today, Policy Matters Ohio Communications Director Caitlin Johnson told lawmakers they should take action to support the news media and rein in the millions of dollars in tax breaks given to the tech firms.
“Despite widely reported bad behavior, the state of Ohio helps Facebook, Google and other big tech firms rake in profits with tax breaks for their data centers,” she said. “Google is getting $43.5 million and Facebook $37 million, each for new data centers in New Albany.”
In addition to today’s Cleveland hearing, the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee will also travel to Cincinnati this month to examine the size and power of Facebook and Google. Attorney General David Yost has launched anti-trust investigations into the tech firms.
Google and Facebook have played a role in weakening the newspaper industry both nationally and in Ohio. As Americans increasingly turn to free news online, newspapers haven’t been able to capitalize on the digital add boom. Facebook and Google by some reports raked in a combined 60% of U.S. digital ad revenue, which topped $100 billion last year. That number jumped to 77% in local markets. Meanwhile, advertisers keep moving away from newspapers – both in print and online. Total advertising revenue for publicly traded newspaper companies fell by 13% from 2017 to 2018. Between 2004 and 2018, the United States lost nearly 1,800 papers and Ohio lost more than 100.
Meanwhile, 8.5% of Facebook users share “fake news” and Google automatically places ads on thousands of clickbait sites that spread disinformation, according to recent studies.
Johnson urged lawmakers to take steps to mitigate the negative consequences of Facebook and Googles’ dominance. In addition to reining in tax breaks for data centers, legislators should increase state support for public broadcasting by $5 million and invest in efforts to strengthen local journalism through collaboration with educational institutions and community organizations.
“The founding fathers warned that newspapers are indispensable in preserving democracy,” Johnson said. “The news media…plays an indispensable role in upholding democracy and connecting communities. This presents a case for providing public policy support.”