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Tech newsletter: Can Americans still afford internet?

Here is a look at tech and politics news from the last week.

 

Andrew Wyrich

Tech

Published Sep 7, 2021   Updated Sep 3, 2021, 11:31 am CDT

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Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Internet Insider, where we dissect tech and politics unfolding online. Today:

  • A quarter of Americans worry about paying their internet bills, survey finds
  • Reddit responds to sitewide blackout by restricting over 50 communities pushing COVID disinformation
  • Amazon’s purchase of MGM Studios should be blocked to stop its ‘growing dominance,’ leading advocates say

A person paying for their broadband internet service with a credit card.

BREAK THE INTERNET

A quarter of Americans worry about paying their internet bills, survey finds

Just over a quarter of Americans are worried about being able to pay their broadband and smartphone bills over the next few months, according to a new survey.

Pew Research Center published its findings in a large “The Internet and the Pandemic” report on Wednesday.

In the report, Pew found that 26% of those polled said they were worried about being able to pay their broadband internet bills over the next few months. Meanwhile, 24% of people felt the same about paying their smartphone bill.

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of internet connectivity as millions of people relied on it for work, school, and telemedicine. The pandemic also shined a bring light on the country’s long-standing digital divide, the gap between people who have access to affordable internet and those who don’t.

The findings are similar to other recent surveys. In August, Consumer Reports found that nearly half of Americans were “dissatisfied” to some degree about how much they were paying for their broadband service.

The same poll from Consumer Reports noted that 21% of people asked said it was “somewhat difficult” to afford their monthly internet bill, and 3% said it was “very difficult” to do so.

—Andrew Wyrich, deputy tech editor


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gavel on red blob with "r/nonewnormal has been banned from Reddit. This subreddit was banned due to a violation of Reddit's content policy against promoting community interference."

DISINFO

Reddit responds to sitewide blackout by restricting over 50 communities pushing COVID disinformation

Reddit has given in to some of the demands of a massive campaign asking it to remove COVID-19 disinformation from the platform.

Last month, the Daily Dot reported that hundreds of subreddits had issued a public plea for Reddit to do more to police COVID disinformation. Ultimately, more than 1,000 reposted the plea originally posted by VaxxHappened.

Reddit refused to take action. In response, dozens of subreddits went private in protest earlier this week. According to a list compiled by one redditor, roughly another 150 were going to set their subs to private. 

On Wednesday last week, Reddit announced that it was giving in to some of their demands. 

It banned the NoNewNormal subreddit, which was specifically referenced in calls to police pandemic disinformation. It’s also quarantined 54 others, including subreddits like Ivermectin, vaccinelonghaulers,  CovidIsAFraud, Wuhan_Flu, TrueAntiVaccination, and Covid Vaccinated Uncut.

Quarantining a subreddit means it doesn’t show up in public searches and doesn’t generate revenue. People who visit these subs are greeted with a notice that includes a link to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website about COVID.

—Claire Goforth, contributing writer


FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan next to a letter sent to her by advocacy groups asking for the FTC to block the proposed MGM Amazon deal.

BIG TECH

Amazon’s purchase of MGM Studios should be blocked to stop its ‘growing dominance,’ leading advocates say

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Lina Khan to have the agency block Amazon from acquiring MGM Studios to slow the retail giant’s “growing dominance.”

In May, Amazon announced that it had reached a $8.45 billion deal to acquire MGM Studios, which produces popular franchises like the James Bond films. The FTC is reportedly investigating the proposed deal.

Shortly after the announcement, Amazon pushed for Khan—who has massive support from progressives and has been critical of big tech companies—to recuse herself from antitrust cases involving the retail giant.

The more than 30 advocacy groups said in a letter to Khan that the proposed MGM deal was “the latest move in Amazon’s overarching strategy to create numerous interconnected points of dominance over businesses and consumers.”

“There is ample evidence already that Amazon uses the combined elements of its platform as a cudgel against its rivals,” the letter reads. “The proposed acquisition of MGM would give an already abusive monopoly even more weapons to use against consumers, businesses, and workers. We urge the FTC to halt this deal and to continue to investigate Amazon’s broad abuse of its ecosystem.”

—A.W.

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*First Published: Sep 7, 2021, 12:00 pm CDT