National View: With ad market cornered, Big Tech now practicing censorship

From the column: "With their massive reach, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are killing off traditional print media. ... This calls out for redress, but it won’t come from the narrow focus of the DOJ suit."

Randall Enos / Cagle Cartoons

Big Tech has siphoned off advertising and wants to be a global censor.

The Department of Justice has filed suit against Google for its predatory advertising practices. Bully!

Not that I think Google is inherently evil, venal, or greedier than any other corporation. Indeed, it is a source of much good through its awesome search engine.

But when it comes to advertising, Google and others with high-tech platforms have done inestimable damage. They have Hoovered up most of the available advertising dollars, bankrupting much of the world’s traditional media and, thereby, limiting the coverage of the news — especially local news.

They have ripped the heart out of the economics of journalism.


Like other internet companies, they treasure their intellectual property while sucking up the journalistic property of the impoverished providers without a thought of paying.

While I doubt the DOJ suit will do much to redress the advertising imbalance (Axios argues the part of Google that the DOJ wants divested accounts for only 12% of the company’s revenue), it will keep the issue of what to do about Big Tech media churning.

The issue of advertising is an old conundrum, written extra-large by the internet. Advertisers have always favored a first-past-the-post strategy. In practice, this has meant in the world of newspapers that a small edge in circulation means a massive gulf in advertising volume.

Broadcasting, through the ratings system, has been able to charge for the audience it gets, plus a premium for perceived audience quality — “60 Minutes” compared to, say, “Maury,” which was canceled last year.

But mostly, it is always about raw numbers of readers, listeners, and viewers. As rough a calculation, first-past-the-post has meant 20% more of the audience turns into 50% more of the available advertising dollars.

I would cite the New York Times’ leverage over the Herald Tribune, the Baltimore Sun’s edge over the News-American, and the Washington Post’s advantage over the Evening Star. The weaker papers all in time folded even when they had healthy circulations, just not healthy enough.

With their massive reach, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are killing off the traditional print media and wreaking havoc in broadcasting. This calls out for redress, but it won’t come from the narrow focus of the DOJ suit.

The even larger issue with Google and its compatriots is freedom of speech.


The internet tech publishers (for that is what they are) Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and others reserve the right to throw you off their sites if you indulge in speech, which, by contemporary standards, incites hate, violence, or social disturbance.

Conservatives believe they are victimized, and I agree. Anyone whose speech is restricted by another individual or an institution is a victim of prejudice, albeit the prejudice of good intent.

Recently, I was warned by LinkedIn that I would be barred from posting on the site because I had transgressed — and two transgressions merit banning. The offending item was a historical piece about a World War II massacre in Greece. The offense may have been a dramatic photograph of skulls, taken by my wife at the museum at Distomo in Greece, a scene of a barbarous genocide.

I followed the appeal procedure against the two-strikes-you’re-out rule, but I have heard nothing. I expect the censoring algorithms have my number and are ready to protect the public from me next time I write about an ugly historical event.

The concept of hate speech is contrary to free expression. It calls for censorship even though it professes otherwise. Any time one group of people is telling another, or even an individual, what they can say, free speech is threatened and the First Amendment is compromised.

The problem isn’t what is called hate speech, but lying — a malady that is endemic in the political class. The defense against the liars who haunt social media is what some find hateful speech: ridicule, invective, irony, satire, and all the weapons in the literary quiver.

The right to bear the arms of free and open discourse shouldn’t be infringed by social-media giants.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS-TV.


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Llewellyn King

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