2.34 billion people worldwide have at least one social media profile. That includes 77 percent of people in the United States, almost a third of whom are teenagers, according to Statista. On top of that, the average American teenager spends at least two hours watching television a day, according to Business Insider. American citizens willingly give their trust to the media, but the growth of media corporations such as the Walt Disney Company and Facebook threatens to betray them.
Media corporations are becoming increasingly monopolistic as they continue to consolidate. As of now, there are only a few major companies in the entertainment and technology industries, meaning there is less competition.
Companies with less competition in their industries can increase the prices of their products, but they also may be biased on the content they produce. For example, Amazon owns the Washington Post, and which could influence it to produce content that portrays Amazon more favorably.
“Media monopolization can be dangerous because it can cause people to live in a certain bubble of information, and they’re unable to see outside of their scope of information,” social media user and senior Yusra Shegow said.
English teacher Laurie Repko teaches her sophomore English students to consider what corporations certain companies are associated with in order to determine if a source is biased.
“Monopolies are always a threat to limiting both financial diversity and opportunity. However, we are in greater danger in limiting individual voices and cultural perspectives as those companies are engaged in media distribution,” Repko said.
Companies are less likely to produce content that does not directly impact them in a positive way. Similarly, they will be more likely to put out content simply because it benefits their conglomerate in some way.
“This kind of locus of control inevitably leads to an insular vision. There is no way to maintain diversity; companies do not self-regulate their vested interests. What obligation do they have to engender broad representation of ideas that do not line their pockets?” Repko said.
However, there are even more factors that put media users in danger. Specifically, with social media, the illegal use of consumer data has recently become more prevalent, after Cambridge Analytica was found collecting data from Facebook profiles in spring 2018.
This data was taken without the authorization of Facebook users, and Facebook knew it was happening for two years, according to CBS News. Facebook never let users know that their data was being used without consent. If something like this were to happen with another social media giant such as Google, which owns applications such as Google Maps and Instagram, people could have their data used without their consent.
In the case of Cambridge Analytica, the data was used to target users with political advertisements, but users are also targeted with personalized advertisements, which are legal.
“I think personalized ads can sometimes help people find what is specific to their interests, but I don’t think it’s necessary all of the time,” Shegow said.
As media corporations grow, the risks only seem to amplify. Users are seemingly left defenseless against the dangers of media monopolization. However, there will most likely be more safeguards against the misuse of data because of what happened with Cambridge Analytica. Furthermore, the government guards against monopolies using the Anti-Trust Act, so it is unlikely these monopolistic tendencies can grow much further.