JACKSON — Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and every other attorney general throughout the nation are suing Facebook for creating an illegal social media monopoly that has stifled competition.

Facebook is the world’s biggest social network with 2.7 billion users and a company with a market value of nearly $800 billion. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is the world’s fifth-richest individual and the most public face of Big Tech swagger.

Fitch said, “Facebook spent nearly a decade engaging in practices that diminish competition and exploit user privacy for profit. I joined this suit to put an end to Facebook’s monopolistic stronghold on the marketplace and protect Mississippians from anticompetitive and deceptive business practices.”

This isn’t the only legal challenge Facebook is facing. Several lawsuits accuse Facebook of illegally profiting from users’ private data without their permission.

Congress is also looking at repealing Section 230 of the Communications Act, which gives Facebook immunity from lawsuits over the content it publishes. President Trump and dozens of senators and congressmen accuse Facebook of secretly manipulating what we see on our screens for political purposes.

Facebook is in a heap of legal and political trouble.

Being in the media, I have watched Facebook provide free advertising to my advertising clients, which has tremendously hurt my newspaper business.

“First they give it to you.” And now Facebook is raising prices through the roof, squeezing these clients now that they have got them hooked.

At first, if you were a business with a Facebook page and a fan base, your posts went out to your fans for free. That was called “organic reach.” But now organic reach has dwindled down to nothing, maybe 3%. An advertiser must pay to “boost your post.” Local advertisers are getting priced out of the market.

There are half as many journalists employed today as when Facebook got started. People are relying on Facebook posts for their information rather than journalists. Rumor, fake news and misinformation are exploding, causing great harm.

I have a question for all you Facebook posters: How much money has Facebook paid you for your posts? The very posts that drive readership and make Facebook billions?

I know the answer: zippo, zero, nada, nothing. Just like all the local ad revenue that Facebook sucks out of our communities, it pays nothing back in. All the money goes to San Francisco.

But I have a plan to change all that. My company is building cutting-edge social media platforms in towns and communities throughout Mississippi. And instead of hoarding all the profits, we intend to cut the community in and make it a collective endeavor.

How? By paying for posts. A penny per read, which can add up rapidly. If you post valuable news that others in the community find valuable, you will get paid.

It’s called competition. Facebook is making billions off free content. We plan to outbid them and suck the content off of Facebook onto our new vibrant community-based platform.

Right now, you can go to northsidesun.com and 21 other Mississippi websites and start posting news and photos and get paid for it. Nine Northsiders already have. We plan for that number to be 900.

The Commonwealth will be introducing this functionality soon.

Posting to our websites from your smartphone is a piece of cake. Right now, we have a news feed. But soon we will have a neighbors’ feed and a friends’ feed as well.

The news feed is “curated.” It doesn’t get posted immediately. We review it with our trained editors who know the community. That way we separate the wheat from the chaff and ensure false rumors aren’t published.

The friends and neighbors feeds will not be curated (other than to remove libelous content). They will operate like Nextdoor and Facebook, except they will be locally based and posters will get paid for their contributions. The ad revenue will stay in the community, and there will be a connection to the community that a global company such as Facebook can never attain. And it will be an affordable digital advertising platform. No more Facebook/Instagram/Google monopoly pricing.

So how can we do this? How does a small Mississippi publisher compete with the overwhelming technology of a Facebook or a Google?

That’s the beauty of open source, collaborative software. It is developed, perfected and shared by tens of thousands of programmers all over the world. It’s free. Nobody owns it. Unlike the proprietary networks like Google and Facebook, it is a collective global endeavor.

We use a “content management system” called Drupal. About 10% of all the internet traffic in the world runs through Drupal. It allows small companies to compete against giants.

Imagine if you were going to build a 50-story skyscraper. But instead of pouring the foundation and erecting all the iron beams, all that was already done. In fact, the building was 99 percent done before you spent a penny. All you have to do is pick the layout of the floors and add the furniture and fixtures. That’s Drupal 8.

Cloud-based hosting services are now available to anyone, giving smaller websites speed and reliability that was unimaginable just a few years ago.

It’s exciting. I’ve never been more pumped about the future. It’s going to be an amazing ride.

None of this should really be surprising. This is the way it always has worked. A pioneering business gets lucky, breaks new ground, attracts investors, gains momentum, grows to be huge, becomes a monopoly, rakes in profits, abuses its power, attracts government scrutiny, raises prices and ends up spurring smaller competitors.

It does not make sense for one gargantuan company to dominate social media. This should be local. Community platforms should be connected to their communities. Local employees, local businesses, local contributors and local circulation of the dollars. It’s time for the money to quit being sucked out of our local markets. Emmerich Newspapers intends to compete against a Goliath and we intend to prevail.

Unlike Facebook, we don’t track you, collect your private data, spy on you and sell your personal information around the world. We do none of that. At all.

And we won’t use artificial intelligence to get you addicted to our platform. It’s real local editors, real local journalists, working in collaboration with members of the community who want to help build a vibrant community platform.

But we need your help. We need all the active posters to Facebook and Instagram to grow with us and post with our new platforms and be part of the effort. In return, you will be paid for the valuable information that you contribute to the platform.

So far this year, our web traffic is double over last year. This is just the start. Watch us grow and become part of our effort to bring the community back to social media. We are adding new features and functionality to our website every week. It’s exciting. It’s doable. It will get better and better.

So join the 420,000 people who visit our local websites every month throughout the state. Put our favicon on your smartphone screen. If you are tired of Facebook and its monopoly, there are alternatives coming. Be a part of it.

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