One of the odd developments in the technological age is that it looks like the Europeans will be taking the lead in taming the tech giants. Americans have been brainwashed into worshiping business, so any resistance to what the tech companies are doing to us is met with howls of protest. Even the American Left is in the tank for global business. Things are different with the Europeans, who maintain that old socialist distrust of capitalists. That’s what you see in stories like this one, where the Euros are trying to reign in the socials.
Leading journalists from more than 20 countries joined a call Tuesday for European MPs to approve a controversial media reform aimed at forcing internet giants to pay for news content.
European Parliament lawmakers return in September to discuss the proposal, a first draft of which was rejected last month after a fierce debate.
The so-called copyright and neighbouring rights law aims to ensure that producers of creative content—whether news, music or movies—are paid fairly in a digital world.
But the plans have been firmly opposed by big US tech firms such as Google and Facebook, as well as advocates of internet freedom.
An open letter signed by more than 100 prominent journalists from major news outlets warned Tuesday that “this fleecing of the media of their rightful revenue” was “morally and democratically unjustifiable”.
“We have become targets and our reporting missions cost more and more,” said the letter written by AFP foreign correspondent Sammy Ketz and published in several European newspapers including France’s Le Monde.
“Yet, even though (the media) pay for the content and send the journalists who will risk their lives to produce a trustworthy, thorough and diverse news service, it is not they who reap the profits but the internet platforms, which help themselves without paying a cent,” the letter said.
“It is as if a stranger came along and shamelessly snatched the fruits of your labour.”
The editorial urged the European Parliament to “vote massively in favour of neighbouring rights for the survival of democracy and one of its most remarkable symbols: journalism”.
Major publishers, including AFP, have pushed for the reform—known as Article 11—seeing it as an urgently needed solution against a backdrop of free online news that has wiped out earnings for traditional media companies.
The thing that no one ever seems to discuss is that companies like Facebook don’t make anything and their service is barely adequate. What they are doing is exploiting a natural monopoly so they can monetize the creative work of their users, including their personal information. Social media companies are skimming operations that operate on the fringe of legality. These companies harvest all sorts of information from users without their explicit permission. They are even trying to harvest your medical and financial records
The fact is, the social media companies, and that includes Google, have figured out how to transfer the value of creators from the owner to the tech giant. After all, Google’s search engine can only work if there is something worth finding. The search engine has value, but so does the content. The same is true of the content on FaceBook or Twitter. The only reason to be on those platforms is the content generated by users. The platform is a tiny portion of the value, but the platform owners consume all of the revenue from the system.
This is why, as an aside, newspapers and magazines are going broke. It’s not the only reason, but it is a big reason. If the New York Times took down its web site today, just shut it down completely, subscriptions would suddenly spike. The reason is, the entire liberal ecosystem relies on the New York Times for content and direction. It is the home church of the Progressive cult. Their regular readers would go back to buying the paper like the old days. If all newspapers followed suit, the internet gets quiet all of a sudden.
Putting that aside, there is a simple reform that addresses the abuses of the tech giants, as well as some of the other problems created by technology. You own you. That means your personal information, your image, your words, they all belong to you and anyone using them must have written permission. If FaceBook wants to sell your demographic data to some marketing company, they must have your written permission and not just through the abuse of leonine contracts. You have to consent to each sale.
This is not a new idea. Your credit record is not something the credit bureau can distribute without your permission. The propaganda on TV shows, where the cops instantly access the suspect’s credit card and personal records, is just part of the conditioning campaign against privacy. In reality, they need a warrant and it is hard to obtain. A lender must get your written permission to obtain your credit records from a credit bureau. It’s not just for privacy reasons. That information is your property and you have right to control it.
The thing is, this is a very easy solution to the abuses that have arisen from the technological revolution. The doxxing phenomenon popular with the bubble heads of Progressive media would go away with better property protections. All of sudden, they would be forbidden from using the images and personal information of people they wish to harass. Unless they could show that the information they obtained is in the public domain, they would be liable for any damages, plus the criminal use of stolen goods.
Again, this is not terribly difficult to navigate. If it is not yours, then you need permission to possess it. This is the rule with personal property. If you are found in possession of stolen goods, you are charged with a crime. It does not matter if you did not know they were stolen, because you knew the property was not yours. In other words, unless you are the lawful owner of the property, the burden of proof is on you to show you had a right to possess it. The principle is used in security clearances, so it is not an untested concept.
The result of tighter property laws, with regards to personal information, would be the end of social media as a profitable business. No one should weep for them as they are not technology companies in the conventional sense. They are parasites that exploit bottlenecks and gaps in the law to skim from the public. The internet was much more free wheeling and open without companies like Google and FaceBook. The reason for that is there were no stickup men creating bottlenecks in order to rob the users.