Big tech companies Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Nextdoor have made trillions of dollars off local content. In most cases they do not provide compensation to the creators of the content that they use to drive traffic to their sites that they sell to advertisers. Advertisers are the lifeblood of local news creators and by siphoning off the advertisers these large tech companies are causing these much needed community developing information providers to go extinct.
Each community has different elements that make the community unique. This diversity allows for different perspectives on events. An urban community will have a better understanding of certain events, while a rural agricultural community may have a better understanding of different events. This is also true for regional issues. Sometimes certain issues may resonate with a community because of a past experience of that community.
Google requests ‘local guides’ to provide unpaid reviews of local businesses and respond to surveys about those businesses. Nextdoor attempts to send emails requesting that members of a community provide it information on that community. They send general questions and hope that the local unpaid individuals can provide nuances that make the content local. Facebook has large numbers of users and reduces the reach of content that is not paid, so the only content including community news that has a large reach on Facebook is paid content.
These large tech companies are faux-local. Their only interest in your community is to siphon off the local advertising dollars and mandate the social change that these companies and investors want to see.
Nextdoor is a particularly interesting case study. They are a tech company that is billed as a place for the local community to share information such as lost pets, crime that was happening, and neighborhood issues. They managed to get many local police departments to join and provide updates. They recently launched an anti-racism notification to prevent discriminatory language. The NextDoors blog says “The new anti-racism notification detects certain phrases such as “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” and prompts the author to consider editing their post or comment before it goes live.” It also says that “All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter content is explicitly prohibited on Nextdoor when used to undermine racial equality or the Black Lives Matter movement.” Nextdoor’s audience was partially built using notifications from law enforcement, but they ban content supporting the sacrifices that police make.
These large tech companies are mandating their divisive politics. These companies are not inclusive, they ban many things that are mainstream in these communities. They are not into diversity, since they only allow a small window of acceptable content. The community based newspapers that are actually a part of the community will prevent this vanillafication (only one flavor) of our communities.
Often these tech companies look down on many of these communities. They do not value the insights that these communities can provide. The diversity of the ideas of the people in these communities are ignored instead the people are grouped together and dismissed out of hand as backwards people.
Communities need to take back control. Rather than working for free to provide content for a trillion dollar tech company, help to build a local newspaper or news site. Highlight the good things happening in your community, not just the bad. Seek out individuals in your community who have a unique perspective on events and capture their perspective. We need less gigantic monopolistic tech companies and more small locally owned businesses.