The corporate assault on the internet and democracy
The internet, once hailed as an unrivaled tool of liberation and democratization, is now being sold off to the highest bidder and transformed into a tool of corporate surveillance, unchecked monopoly power, and unbridled political corruption.
The latest two blows against a free and open internet came just this past month in swift succession: First, the official repeal of net neutrality protections, the set of common-sense regulations put in place a few years ago to check the power of the corporate monopolies that now control virtually all access to the internet. Then, a federal court ruling that allowed AT&T to acquire Time-Warner for $102 billion, paving the way for a new wave of mega-mergers (including Disney’s expected bid for 21st Century Fox).
Industry lobbyists claimed these two moves would result in more innovation and a more open, accessible, high-quality internet experience for the rest of us. But as media watchdog groups like Free Press have been documenting for years, every time the FCC has failed to put checks on big media companies in the past, we’ve seen exactly the opposite: higher prices, fewer choices, and service that continues to lag behind most other advanced nations in the world.
If you’re looking to make sense of how and why this is happening, we urge you to watch our new film Digital Disconnect, featuring acclaimed media scholar Robert McChesney. Check out the short clip below for McChesney’s take on the multi-front corporate threat to an open, democratic internet.
“I love this movie! It offers a crash course in the hidden history of the Internet – and shows how this revolutionary platform capable of enhancing freedom and democracy is being subverted into a vehicle for monopoly, hyper-commercialism, and surveillance.”
- JEFF COHEN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, ITHACA COLLEGE
While most debates about the internet continue to focus on issues like the personal impact of internet addiction or the questionable data-mining practices of individual companies like Facebook, Digital Disconnect digs deeper to show how capitalism itself has turned the internet against democracy.
Moving from the development of the internet as a publicly funded project in the late 1960s to its full-scale commercialization today, Digital Disconnect examines the well-funded attack on net neutrality by telecom monopolies like Comcast and Verizon; explores how supposedly “liberal” internet giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have amassed huge profits by surreptitiously collecting personal data and selling it to advertisers; and shows how these companies have routinely colluded with the national security state to advance covert mass surveillance programs. At the same time, the film details how the rise of social media has worked to isolate people into ideological filter bubbles and elevate fake news at the expense of real journalism.
Digital Disconnect is a powerful tool for educators and activists looking to push back against the accelerating corporate assault on the internet and democracy.
“Digital Disconnect combines McChesney’s terrific explanatory skills with MEF’s wonderful production values and creativity, providing a one-stop ‘zero-to-60’ education in the most important topic of our times.”
LARRY GROSS, USC ANNENBERG SCHOOL FOR COMMUNICATION & JOURNALISM