Who is battling social media’s confiscation of the free press? Rupert Murdoch, that’s who

by WorldTribune Staff, October 6, 2017

News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch is spearheading the news industry’s war against tech and social media giants Facebook and Google, which have “eaten journalism’s business model and forever changed how readers consume information,” an analysis said.

“Stories in recent months highlighting Facebook and Google’s fraught role in the election – from the spread of ‘fake news’ to 10 million people viewing Russian-bought ads – have thrust skepticism about the power held by social giants into mainstream public view like never before,” Steven Perlberg and Mark Di Stefano wrote for Buzzfeed on Oct. 4.

‘As the most well-connected media mogul in Washington, the news industry might need Murdoch now more than ever.’ / Reuters

And it is Murdoch, along with his chief newspaper lieutenant, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, who “have taken a central role in the news industry’s corporate war” against Facebook and Google.

“Now media executives are sensing blood in the water – hoping that Facebook and Google’s legitimate public relations nightmare might give news outlets more leverage in business negotiations, and that Washington lawmakers and the public at large will come to see tech giants as public utilities that require regulation,” the analysis said.

“As the most well-connected media mogul in Washington, the news industry might need Murdoch now more than ever.”

The Times of London, a Murdoch-owned British daily newspaper, “has engaged in a months-long campaign this year exposing various problems with tech platforms, particularly issues that have concerned advertisers,” the analysis said. “The series began on Feb. 9 when a jarring image was splashed across the front page: an advertisement for resort chain Sandals next to a jihadi YouTube video. ‘BIG BRANDS FUND TERROR,’ read the headline.”

Since then, the Times has published 18 front pages taking on Facebook and Google, YouTube’s owner, with headlines like “GOOGLE: WE WON’T REMOVE VIDEO THAT ATTACKS JEWS” and “FACEBOOK PUBLISHING CHILD PORN.”

The Times of London series and reporting from other outlets this spring (like Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal) “sparked an advertiser exodus from YouTube by brands like Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s, and L’Oreal,” the analysis said.

While the YouTube advertiser revolt “didn’t harm Google’s staggeringly strong bottom line,” the Times series “rattled the company enough to lead to a face-to-face meeting” between Murdoch, Thomson, and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, according to sources.

“[Google and Facebook] would prefer we didn’t draw so much attention to the problematic content on their platforms. Understand firstly that we’re not going to stop. Secondly, this content is a huge issue,” said a senior executive at Murdoch’s UK newspapers.

“Lawmakers and regulators from Washington to London to Brussels have begun scrutinizing tech giants once lauded as corporate darlings,” the analysis said. “Facebook, Google, and Twitter are being dragged to Capitol Hill to answer questions about Russian attempts to use social media to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mark Zuckerberg has spent months walking back Facebook’s PR line that the company’s influence in the election was a ‘pretty crazy idea.’ Google was slapped with a monster antitrust fine after a seven-year EU investigation.”

Perlberg and Di Stefano concluded: “For media executives, the tides of public opinion turning against Facebook and Google couldn’t have come any sooner, and they are happy to keep up the pressure. News Corp sources describe its battle against the platforms as a business, not moral imperative.

“That’s because the so-called duopoly of Facebook and Google, by some estimates, accounted for nearly 100 percent of the growth in U.S. digital ad revenue last year. Nearly all mainstream media outlets derive a mammoth portion of their audience from the very platforms that are swallowing them whole.”

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