Dozens of progressive groups said Monday they were banding together in a new coalition to counter the influence of Big Tech — and they will first aim at the targeted advertising that’s the lifeblood of Facebook and Google.
The new coalition of 38 advocacy groups and nonprofits signed a letter calling for a ban on what it called “surveillance advertising.” It said that online ads powered by personal data and behavioral history have enabled radicalization and given tech platforms a dominant advantage over traditional ads bundled with journalism.
“Big Tech will continue to stoke discrimination, division, and delusion — even if it fuels targeted violence or lays the groundwork for an insurrection — so long as it’s in their financial interest,” the letter states.
Civil rights organizations and other advocacy groups have for years criticized the ways that large tech companies are reshaping elections, the labor force and other areas of American life, but their organizing has mostly been separate, without an umbrella group to unify their work.
The more unified voice comes just as tech companies are facing a renewed challenge in Congress, where Democrats are pursuing legislation on antitrust enforcement and other subjects that take aim both at the size of Silicon Valley companies and their practices.
On Thursday, two House subcommittees are scheduled to hold a joint hearing on social media's role in promoting misinformation — the latest, and probably not the last, in a series of hearings that put tech companies in the spotlight.
Representatives from Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new coalition’s letter. The two companies have taken a number of steps to examine their effects on civil rights and society more broadly, though for the most part they have not fundamentally changed their core products.