Total Mentions Comparison between
Big Tech, Immigration and Reproductive Justice
This chart demonstrates the overall mentions of three different conversations, comparing their volume over time. Big Tech conversational volume until May 2022 is in line with that of Reproductive Rights and Immigration and Migration. Stories about the Dobbs decision in June 2022 and Governor DeSantis’s expulsion of migrants in October generated large spikes in these conversations, respectively, shifting their prominence in the second half of the year. Big Tech conversations are not always the loudest, but they can carry great influence. The Big Tech spikes in March, September, and December were driven by stories about censorship and government collusion, amplified by the right wing media ecosystem.
Conversations about Big Tech, Immigration and Migration, Reproductive Justice | November 2021 – December 2022 | Zignal Labs
2022’s hot-button conversations about Big Tech¹ mostly focused on concerns about mis- and disinformation, the relationship between Big Tech and democracy, online radicalization, the impacts of social media use on mental health, and the need for federal platform regulation. The end of the year brought chaos and collapse into tech conversations, causing reputational harm to legacy and experimental companies, and generating an atmosphere of uncertainty in the sector at the top of 2023. We predict the conversational volume around Big Tech will spike during critical moments this year, like bipartisan efforts towards regulation or the upcoming SCOTUS hearing on the future of Section 230. Rather than stories and narratives about the outsized influence Big Tech exerts in our everyday lives and how it shapes our experiences on and offline, we predict the overall conversation will shift, centering competing stories and conversations about the death of Big Tech, the reinvention of tech companies and the fragmentation of the digital landscape.
In the next year, there will be an increase in stories about the proliferation of alternative digital spaces, the role of legacy Big Tech companies (ex: Meta, Twitter) and users' changing expectations around on and offline authenticity, community and privacy. We will see an increase in stories about the creation of and/or the return to smaller, niche platforms; this will influence conversations about open data and encrypted messaging, and will increase the volume of conversations about the future of Web3. These trends will impact broader narratives about free speech, regulation, the digital commons, individual choice, working conditions and the overall influence of Big Tech in society.
NARRATIVES AT PLAY
- Big Tech is dying
- Big Tech is a threat to freedom
- Technology is good for democracy, and social media is the town square
- More individual choice means more personal freedom
- Big Tech is harmful to our mental health
- Individual freedom of speech is essential to democracy
- The internet is a public good and should be regulated by the government
- All workers have a right to organize
- White-collar employees don’t need unions
the Digital Landscape
Connect the dots between organizing efforts across sectors. In 2022, we saw a rise in stories around labor and unionizing efforts in the tech sector and beyond. But conversations about union organizing in different sectors are treated as separate, and hard distinctions are made depending what kind of worker is cast as the main character. We have seen the valorization of majority-white John Deere or Kellogg's workers alongside criticism of knowledge worker organizing and multi-racial organizing in the service industry. These distinctions can be observed in stories about Black and Brown migrant workers in the gig economy fighting for fair wages, or in stories about working class adjunct professors organizing against budget cuts. Currently, there are great narrative openings, generated by ongoing, high-profile organizing, the remote work revolution, and the return-to-office push to draw explicit connections between disparate labor rights efforts and build cross-race, cross-class solidarity between workers of all stripes.
Privacy is a widely held value, and we should tap into it. We expect conversations around privacy and surveillance to continue from last year. After various data breaches at social media, healthcare, and even fashion companies, the U.S. government moved forward with efforts to regulate data privacy practices. There is an opening to connect these stories about personal data to conversations about policing and abolition, funneling values-aligned folks into existing campaigns led by organizations like Data 4 Black Lives, Fight for the Future, Kairos, Media Justice, and Mijente.
Advance narratives about the digital commons. In the 21st century, the fight for liberation is happening on and offline. The ongoing fragmentation of Big Tech provides an opening to push tailored messaging to specific audiences about the internet as a public good. Use this opening to move forward that narratives forward and while pushing back against Big Tech privatization and monopolization.
Avoid the oversaturation of mis- and disinformation conversations. In 2022, stories about the dangers of mis- and disinformation were abundant. While the threat is still present, audience interest will be lower in 2023. In response, inoculate against mis- and disinformation by incorporating effective communications strategies tailored by audience that addresses the ways this ongoing threat could impact them in the long term.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a good movie, but not a good strategy. As the internet continues to fragment and niche content continues to resonate with audiences, it can be tempting for those doing narrative and power-building work to want to be on every platform all at once. Remember that strategic communication means saying the right thing, at the right time, to the right people and in the right place. Including on-the-ground, in-person organizing. Find ways to deliver messaging that resonates with your specific audiences where they gather, both on and offline. This can look like short-form videos, memes, livestreamed IRL events, block parties, or canvassing.
Logging off is not enough. The moment a big platform or entity goes against the wishes of its consumers, it’s tempting to mobilize boycotts and advocate for deplatforming specific social media accounts and personalities. While these are good organizing tools, don’t rely on them alone. When combatting surveillance capitalism and the invasion of privacy, diversify your tactics. We need both digital organizing on social media platforms that engages users and invites them into fights around tech accountability and in-person organizing that weaves together the different communities impacted by Big Tech policies.