To save the news, repeal the app tax

The latest in “saving the news from Big Tech.”

Cory Doctorow
6 min readJun 7


EFF’s banner for the save news series; the word ‘NEWS’ appears in pixelated, gothic script in the style of a newspaper masthead. Beneath it in four entwined circles are logos for breaking up ad-tech, ending surveillance ads, opening app stores, and end-to-end delivery. All the icons except for ‘open app stores’ are greyed out. Image: EFF CC BY 3.0

Today (June 7), I’m keynoting the Re:publica conference in Berlin.

Tomorrow (June 8) at 8PM, I’m at Otherland Books in Berlin with my novel Red Team Blues.

Big Tech steals from the news, but what it steals is money, not content. Talking about the news, excerpting it, linking to it, quoting it — these are all beneficial, normal news activities. If you can’t talk about the news, it’s not news — it’s a secret.

But tech does steal from news. A variety of monopolistic tricks allows tech to interpose itself between reporters, publishers and outlets, and the audiences they serve. By creating chokepoints between the news and its audience, tech can extract gigantic sums from the news.

And because the news itself is dominated by the same kinds of extractive, vicious, gigantic corporations, the shit flows downhill: the first victims of attacks on news profitability are news workers — reporters, technical staff, illustrators, photographers. A news outlet has to be really starving before it turns to the money claimed by vulture capitalists who buy distressed debt, or hedge funds who roll up papers, or wealthy owners.

Anything that can’t go on forever eventually stops. Tech’s ripoffs have reached a breaking point, and there’s a broad coalition of journalists, media companies, audiences and politicians ready to do something about this. Now the question is: what should we do?

Whatever we do it should:

  • Maintain broad access to the news;
  • Make it easier for new news outlets to pop up;
  • Make it easier for new tech outlets that carry the news to pop up, too.

It shouldn’t simply transfer funds to bond holders who own newspaper debt, or shareholders of media companies, or billionaire dilettante news proprietors. It shouldn’t make the news and tech into “partners”: we want the press to hold tech to account, not join forces with it.

A month ago, EFF and I started publishing a five-part series of policy prescriptions “saving the news from tech.” Part one was the “curtain raiser,” setting up the whole program:



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: