America’s Internet Splits Along Party Lines

New investments flooding partisan media platforms are beginning to restructure America’s internet operations around the country’s 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, plans to invest “at least $100 million” in children’s entertainment over the next three years 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 don’t support their point of view, including movies and razors.

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 on Monday it announced a 9.2% stake in Twitter, worth about $3 billion, a few weeks after he polled his Twitter followers about Twitter’s support for free speech and suggested the vote had “consequences” would have.
  • At the right, Donald Trump’s new social network, which is struggling to launch, has reportedly raised $1 billion for its blank check IPO. Conservative tech billionaire Peter Thiel backs a conservative rival to Facebook called Rumble and a conservative rival to Tinder called The Right Stuff. Conservative billionaire Rebekah Mercer co-founded and financed conservative Twitter alternative Parler.
  • on your left, billionaires Reid Hoffman, George Soros and others support a new public utility 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.

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

Zoom out: Since the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol uprising, when most internet companies de-platformed former President Donald Trump, conservatives have aggressively built 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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