Framing Big Tech: News Media, Digital Capital and the Antitrust Movement

Nick Dyer-Witheford, Alessandra Mularoni


This article analyses US news media’s coverage of the collision between Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, and an emergent antitrust movement aiming to break up or curb their powers. A study of over 700 articles from 2019 and 2020 shows how news media “frame” this controversy by their selection of storylines, subjects, sources, signs, and solutions. Many stories stress the benefits of Big Tech—the cheapness and convenience of products and services, its importance to the US economy and stock market, and its central role in the Covid-19 pandemic emergency. However, a preponderance of stories supportive of antitrust initiatives seeking to rein in digital monopolists; the narrative of an “antitrust bipartisan alliance” crossing the Republicans/Democrats polarity has become a dominant frame. Yet, the media focus on antitrust legislation and prosecution tends to marginalize more radical proposals for challenging digital corporate power, such as those from the Black Lives Matter movement. Our analysis relates the contested media framing of Big Tech both to inter-capitalist struggles within the communications industry and to a hegemonic crisis in US politics, as an entrenched neoliberalism faces populist challenges from both left and right.

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