America’s Internet Splits Along Party Lines

New investments flooding partisan media platforms begin to restructure US internet operations nationwide deeper political divide

Why it matters: For years, internet theorists have warned about the “splinternet,” a division of the global internet into regions with different rules and laws. Something similar is now starting to happen in the US, with the online world being split into red and blue sectors.

Send the news: The Daily Wire, a conservative digital media company, is plans to invest $100 million minimum over the next three years in children’s entertainment as a direct response to Disney’s opposition to Florida’s recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” law.

  • The effort shows how even normally apolitical media areas can be drawn into the partisan arena.
  • The Daily Wire is at the forefront of building products that offer conservatives alternatives to mainstream brands they feel do not support their stance, including movies and razor blades

The big picture: Red and Blue America have reacted radically differently to today’s information environment.

  • Progressives aim to ensure that existing media and online platforms tackle disinformation.
  • Conservatives feel increasingly powerless by the media, from mainstream newscasts to social platforms, and have begun to invest in alternatives.

What to watch: Billionaires are throwing ever larger sums of money into both attempts.

  • Elon Musk announced on Monday a 9.2% stake in Twitter, worth about $3 billion, a few weeks after questioning his Twitter followers about Twitter’s support for free speech and implicit that the vote would have “consequences”.
  • At the right, Donald Trump’s new social network, namely: struggle to launch, has reportedly raised $1 billion for its IPO with a blank check. Conservative tech billionaire Peter Thiel backs a conservative rival to Facebook called Rumble and a conservative rival to Tinder the good stuff† Conservative billionaire Rebekah Mercer co-founded and financed conservative Twitter alternative Parler.
  • on your left, billionaires Reid Hoffman, George Soros and others are support a new public benefit company that aims to tackle disinformation by funding left-wing local news sites. Other billionaires, such as Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff and Laurene Powell Jobs, have bought up venerable media properties.

Be smart: Media companies and online platforms have historically thrived by serving as wide an audience as possible without regard for political leanings.

  • If the business model for Internet media shifts to direct relationships with paying customers, companies value scale for its own sake less and more on products that appeal to true believers.

Zoom out: Since the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riot, when most internet companies de-platformed former President Trump, conservatives have been aggressively building out alternative communications infrastructure, including their own cloud storage and cryptocurrency companies.

It comes down to: As this trend continues, companies that have long positioned themselves as apolitical will face overwhelming pressure to take sides.

  • For example, conservatives are now urging consumers to drop satellite TV provider DirecTV in response to its decision not to renew its distribution contract with OAN, a conservative TV network.

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