Markus Beckedahl, founder and editor-in-chief of netzpolitik.org
Several efforts to regulate the tech giants must be considered to have failed. Do you know of any (perhaps international) examples of constructive efforts underway in the fight against hatred, manipulation and misinformation?
I am not a fan of the Network Enforcement Act, in part because it is used by repressive regimes as a best-case scenario. But it’s probably fair to say that it motivated Facebook to hire more content moderators for the German-speaking area than it has for other language regions.
There are several studies headed in the right direction that are conducted by independent scientists investigating specific phenomena on platforms.
We need more such studies to be able to discuss these developments with evidence-based information. Independent scientists in particular need better access to the data used by platforms through defined interfaces .
Unfortunately, we face a major power imbalance if tech companies, which are equipped with internal research departments and can draw on their own data pools, have a much better idea of the impact technical standards and regulations will have on their platform than our regulators and researchers do. We have to change that.
You are an independent medium that is financed primarily by readers and has ventured into many different experiments in recent years. What has worked particularly well and what did you learn from the less-successful attempts?
We are happy to report that our model of voluntary funding through readers works well. Our team has expanded to 15 people who are distributed over 11 full-time positions.
But of course we face many challenges: Our subject area is exploding, and we can no longer keep up with it, we simply cannot keep apace with all the relevant debates of an evolving digital society. But, as long as we focus on issues, our impact is constructive, and we can bring perspectives regarding the common good and basic rights into public debate.
Our major research efforts consume a lot of time with a small team, but they’re important and relevant if we are to shed light on topics that are otherwise under-reported.
We grapple with the same problems as all small teams – determining the distribution channels to focus on, which platforms are right for you, and where to find your target groups. It never gets boring; the exciting thing about journalism in today’s world is that it’s changing rapidly and there are more ways to tell stories, to investigate and understand them than ever before.
At this year’s M100, we want to set the course for a modern media policy. Where do you see the greatest need for action in order to ensure we will still have a pluralistic, independent and functioning media system in 10 years’ time?
Media policy is looking for answers in federalism, and these answers must be found at the European level. The State Media Treaty is the best example of this. I’m not convinced that this will prove sustainable and able to meet the challenges of a global digital world and an EU internal market.
We currently have no functioning and scalable business models for many journalistic projects. A major challenge for many media projects is that journalism is not non-profit. We need an improved framework that would allow this form of public service and non-commercial journalism to anchor itself in our media system, where it can serve as a complement to private-sector journalism and public service broadcasting. Legislators and the tax authorities must finally recognize the non-profit character of journalism.