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Don't expect an antitrust dividend for the media – Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard

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All signs point to big tech beginning to get its comeuppance in the U.S. in 2021, perhaps with news publishers benefiting from the smackdown.

The U.S. seems more ready than ever before to bring the gauntlet down on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Facebook’s impending lawsuit brought by the FTC and 48 state attorneys general is a win, and should be celebrated as such — regardless of what happens, especially given all the dark money and technical campaign support Facebook lavishes on lawmakers.

July’s House hearings with tech CEOs featured a far-more informed bipartisan grilling than past rounds, taking the big four to task for their monopoly power. Congressional Democrats released a massive 449-page study examining big tech’s monopoly power ahead of October’s Section 230 hearings.

So why sing the blues for the news?

Well, breaking up big tech isn’t about saving legacy journalism — at least not in this country, unlike the fights brewing in France and Australia. In the U.S., news organizations, especially newspapers and digital publishers, are unlikely to see their circumstances change from the current round of antitrust cases.

The U.S. case against Facebook is based on its practice of buying up its competitors — namely Instagram and WhatsApp — with online advertising just one of many complaints. The harms lawmakers and attorneys general are concerned about are those to the “everyday user” — not news publishers.

Ordinary “mainstream” American for-profit news publishers are certainly not top of mind for powerful voices like Elizabeth Warren, an advocate for breaking up big tech. Here’s a typical Warren takeaway: “Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”

Newspaper chains are not small businesses. And their main strategy seems to be getting bigger, with waves of consolidation aimed at increasing scale and cutting costs. It may well be that newspaper chains themselves someday face antitrust questions of their own; the Gannett/GateHouse merger brought more one-sixth of the nation’s daily newspapers under one company.

Big digital-first publishers like BuzzFeed and HuffPost are also playing the same consolidation games. Many of the tech-darling news startups have been bought by legacy media or had their talent lured away.

Gutted local newspapers that are part of giant chains aren’t providing much of the public service that could make a case for supporting news outlets against big tech. Consider the hullabaloo when news broke that the Ithaca Journal, a Gannett newspaper, was down to just one reporter.

We need to admit news publishers are not sympathetic victims losing an unfair fight against anti-competitive practices — at least not now. Indeed, the big-tech battle most related to media has thus far has been more about content moderation, censorship, and fake news. This summer, in more than five hours of testimony, roughly seven and a half minutes focused specifically on the economic fate of news publishers.

Past precedent from the EU has shown that, unless the entire news industry joins the fight, together — legacy print, digital, television, and public media — big tech will not be brought to its knees. Some outlets will get bought off by Facebook and Google; PR campaigns and lush cash will squash discontent; the biggest news publishers will cut their own private and preferential deals. U.S. law also prohibits this kind of pan-industry collusion, though it’s possible Congress or a friendly FTC could grant safe harbor provisions.

We can win this fight, but all news organizations need to be in it together, sharing a unified commitment and a unified ask — likely focused on digital advertising. The king is in check, but checkmate will require a full-frontal, carefully planned, and unified assault by all the pieces.

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GUEST OPINION: Is social media complicit in the mob attack on the American capital? – The Guardian

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Kent Bruyneel
Guest opinion


My friend Dave said to me recently that whatever anyone thought of social media, we human beings at this point in our evolution were not ready for these tools. Hard to argue, even for someone who makes part of his living teaching that very tool. Using social media as our primary source for both news and truth, we have arrived at a chaotic time in public discourse like people swept up in a mob who don’t quite know what we are doing. Or, why we are doing it. Or, what will become of all that private and personal information shared and shouted. We only know, as mob members, that everyone else is doing it; parts of it seem like entertainment; and we had better do it lest we miss out on something – that most modern of motivations.

I tell students and clients that one of the tenets of modern communications, especially social media, is that if you do not define your online voice, someone else will do it for you. Sure, they probably will anyway (see: Yelp). But, I remind them, you have to enter the arena to at least hear what is being said. I encourage its use broadly and pervasively, so even though I am not an active social media poster, I am connected to the ridiculous and deadly spectacle that happened in the American capital this past week in myriad ways. In a sense all of those in the social network are: the lurkers and the over-sharers. Not culpable, or guilty or anything, but not quite innocent either: we are responsible for how widely, vigorously and seriously we read. And, of course, we are responsible for what signs we hold over our head; and what weapons we bear in our arms. But the basic underlying algorithm that controls the news we unprepared-humans now are fed has made social media so dangerous that its standard bearer is being linked in legitimate publications to the machine that will destroy mankind.

Put simply, an algorithm is a specific set of instructions to solve a problem. Broadly speaking, social media algorithms find out what you like and then feed you more of it. This process is always been part of the internet experience: more cute than deep (endless cat videos), more seedy than dangerous (endless pornography), more annoying than threatening (endless spam). What has fundamentally changed is that now, mostly through Twitter and Facebook, we are fed not just larks or stimuli, we are fed news and truth.

Different truth, and different news according to what we already believe. News and truth, actually, that have specifically designed and delivered for us. News and truth that have been curated to please us and turn off our critical faculties. The Atlantic recently published an article called “Facebook is a Doomsday Device” that is both chilling and worth the read. This is what Dave meant. We are not prepared for these tools.

The eleventh hour banning of President Trump’s Twitter account and the Big Tech move that comes against Parler, Twitter’s conservative wannabee doppelganger, is too late in the process, poorly and cynically timed; but also necessary. Though it may seem futile, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg must chase down the horses that have so violently erupted from their barns. Even if they do, they will almost certainly face more regulatory and legislative oversight going forward from all nations. Good.

In the United States, the protections social media companies have been granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will be further scrutinized. The best way to quickly explain Section 230 is that it allows social media companies to be platforms, not publishers: a publisher is responsible for the veracity of whatever it publishes, a platform is not responsible for whomever stands on it and shouts. It appears that the companies themselves have now realized that line can no longer be so easily delineated in the still nascent empires of influence.

Though it is possible to understand the banning of the MAGA crowd as the violation of the rules of a platform, it can be just as easily read as the editorial decisions of a publisher. The president’s quixotic and ill-informed attack on Section 230 notwithstanding, I expect the investigation, regulation and scrutiny to only grow on the companies that control the information age; and the most prominent web companies do too based on their recent actions. Good.

We know now and have always known that disinformation has consequences. It seems unavoidable to conclude that absent the ability of social media companies to curate and choose news and truth for people based on scraped personal information and preferences; and those companies’ concurrent ability to group those people together with relative ease, these acts of mob terrorism would have been far harder to organize. This is not to excuse or explain away the brutality and violence, this is to understand how it all got together in one place. Understanding the later, does not lessen the contempt, disgust or scorn for the former.

I also acknowledge that Facebook can help facilitate many wonderful things too and connect people in a certain way. But, at the moment, that feels akin to people fighting the opioid epidemic by acknowledging that heroin makes you high … Sure, it does that too. That’s how this all got started.

I come bearing no solutions other than this: Read more. I would doubt anyone who said they know exactly what social media will look like, or how it will impact us, in10 years, or even five. I’ll just close by paraphrasing George Orwell, who was prescient about the danger of a degraded public discourse: Those who do not read well cannot think well, and those who do not think well will have their thinking done for them.

Kent Bruyneel teaches modern business communications and social media and applied digital communications at the University of Prince Edward Island and is the editor-in-chief of Forget Magazine. With his wife, Dr. Shannon Bruyneel, he runs a strategic consulting firm, The Eastsizing Company, that focuses on socially actionable research.

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GUEST OPINION: Is social media complicit in the mob attack on the American capital? – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Kent Bruyneel
Guest opinion


My friend Dave said to me recently that whatever anyone thought of social media, we human beings at this point in our evolution were not ready for these tools. Hard to argue, even for someone who makes part of his living teaching that very tool. Using social media as our primary source for both news and truth, we have arrived at a chaotic time in public discourse like people swept up in a mob who don’t quite know what we are doing. Or, why we are doing it. Or, what will become of all that private and personal information shared and shouted. We only know, as mob members, that everyone else is doing it; parts of it seem like entertainment; and we had better do it lest we miss out on something – that most modern of motivations.

I tell students and clients that one of the tenets of modern communications, especially social media, is that if you do not define your online voice, someone else will do it for you. Sure, they probably will anyway (see: Yelp). But, I remind them, you have to enter the arena to at least hear what is being said. I encourage its use broadly and pervasively, so even though I am not an active social media poster, I am connected to the ridiculous and deadly spectacle that happened in the American capital this past week in myriad ways. In a sense all of those in the social network are: the lurkers and the over-sharers. Not culpable, or guilty or anything, but not quite innocent either: we are responsible for how widely, vigorously and seriously we read. And, of course, we are responsible for what signs we hold over our head; and what weapons we bear in our arms. But the basic underlying algorithm that controls the news we unprepared-humans now are fed has made social media so dangerous that its standard bearer is being linked in legitimate publications to the machine that will destroy mankind.

Put simply, an algorithm is a specific set of instructions to solve a problem. Broadly speaking, social media algorithms find out what you like and then feed you more of it. This process is always been part of the internet experience: more cute than deep (endless cat videos), more seedy than dangerous (endless pornography), more annoying than threatening (endless spam). What has fundamentally changed is that now, mostly through Twitter and Facebook, we are fed not just larks or stimuli, we are fed news and truth.

Different truth, and different news according to what we already believe. News and truth, actually, that have specifically designed and delivered for us. News and truth that have been curated to please us and turn off our critical faculties. The Atlantic recently published an article called “Facebook is a Doomsday Device” that is both chilling and worth the read. This is what Dave meant. We are not prepared for these tools.

The eleventh hour banning of President Trump’s Twitter account and the Big Tech move that comes against Parler, Twitter’s conservative wannabee doppelganger, is too late in the process, poorly and cynically timed; but also necessary. Though it may seem futile, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg must chase down the horses that have so violently erupted from their barns. Even if they do, they will almost certainly face more regulatory and legislative oversight going forward from all nations. Good.

In the United States, the protections social media companies have been granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will be further scrutinized. The best way to quickly explain Section 230 is that it allows social media companies to be platforms, not publishers: a publisher is responsible for the veracity of whatever it publishes, a platform is not responsible for whomever stands on it and shouts. It appears that the companies themselves have now realized that line can no longer be so easily delineated in the still nascent empires of influence.

Though it is possible to understand the banning of the MAGA crowd as the violation of the rules of a platform, it can be just as easily read as the editorial decisions of a publisher. The president’s quixotic and ill-informed attack on Section 230 notwithstanding, I expect the investigation, regulation and scrutiny to only grow on the companies that control the information age; and the most prominent web companies do too based on their recent actions. Good.

We know now and have always known that disinformation has consequences. It seems unavoidable to conclude that absent the ability of social media companies to curate and choose news and truth for people based on scraped personal information and preferences; and those companies’ concurrent ability to group those people together with relative ease, these acts of mob terrorism would have been far harder to organize. This is not to excuse or explain away the brutality and violence, this is to understand how it all got together in one place. Understanding the later, does not lessen the contempt, disgust or scorn for the former.

I also acknowledge that Facebook can help facilitate many wonderful things too and connect people in a certain way. But, at the moment, that feels akin to people fighting the opioid epidemic by acknowledging that heroin makes you high … Sure, it does that too. That’s how this all got started.

I come bearing no solutions other than this: Read more. I would doubt anyone who said they know exactly what social media will look like, or how it will impact us, in10 years, or even five. I’ll just close by paraphrasing George Orwell, who was prescient about the danger of a degraded public discourse: Those who do not read well cannot think well, and those who do not think well will have their thinking done for them.

Kent Bruyneel teaches modern business communications and social media and applied digital communications at the University of Prince Edward Island and is the editor-in-chief of Forget Magazine. With his wife, Dr. Shannon Bruyneel, he runs a strategic consulting firm, The Eastsizing Company, that focuses on socially actionable research.

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Firstlight Media Teams with Google Cloud to Deliver Next-Gen OTT – Canada NewsWire

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Unlocks Service Agility, Scalability, Extensibility Across Partner Ecosystems

TORONTO, Jan. 19, 2021 /CNW/ – Firstlight Media today announced that it has partnered with Google Cloud to support rapid deployment and expansion of OTT video streaming services.

Firstlight Media’s microservices-based architecture takes full advantage of Google Cloud capabilities, including:

  • Agility to launch services in weeks, rather than months;
  • Scalability for cost effective growth with customers’ businesses and support for complex use cases; and
  • Extensibility that futureproofs platforms with simplified integrations into best of breed technology solutions, as well as product features that drive innovation and deliver on customer acquisition, retention and revenue.

By combining Firstlight Media’s extensive background in solving complex issues for Tier 1 operators with the scale, reach and tools of Google Cloud, Firstlight Media now enables video providers to capitalize quickly and efficiently on new market opportunities in delivering AI/ML-powered personalization and monetization. Customers can leverage Firstlight’s OTT headend in San Diego and digital expertise in the media and entertainment industry to navigate the increasingly complex world of advertising and subscription direct-to-consumer business models with confidence.

“For the industry, our partnership with Google Cloud exponentially expands options for new services that can rapidly address viewer demand,” said Andre Christensen, CEO and co-founder of Firstlight Media. “Our customers can leverage three formidable resources—Firstlight Media’s cloud native platform, Google Cloud’s platform, and the technology of other Google Cloud partners—all to create opportunities that maximize the long-term value of each subscriber.”

“Increasingly, media and entertainment need to deliver digital-first experiences to consumers, in person and online,” said Kip Schauer, Global Head of Media and Entertainment Partnerships at Google Cloud. “We’re excited to partner with Firstlight Media to scale and extend their platform on Google Cloud, and help businesses deliver exciting, new digital experiences to consumers.”

About Firstlight Media
Firstlight Media is expediting OTT’s transformation to ultra-scalable, cloud-based platforms that use artificial intelligence to drive true engagement and monetization for Tier 1 operators. Founded by a team with deep OTT video expertise and a strong track record of building successful B2B businesses, Firstlight Media is poised to capture the next wave of growth in premium OTT entertainment services. The company is headquartered in Toronto and has additional locations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Chennai, India. For more information, visit firstlight.ai.

SOURCE Firstlight Media

For further information: Paul Schneider, PSPR, Inc. for Firstlight Media, [email protected], +1.215.817.4384

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