Why media companies insist they're not media companies, why they're wrong, and why it matters

  • Philip Napoli Duke University
  • Robyn Caplan Data & Society Research Institute
Keywords: Algorithms, social media, media policy, journalism


A common position amongst social media platforms and online content aggregators is their resistance to being characterized as media companies. Rather, companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter have regularly insisted that they should be thought of purely as technology companies. This paper critiques the position that these platforms are technology companies rather than media companies, explores the underlying rationales, and considers the political, legal, and policy implications associated with accepting or rejecting this position. As this paper illustrates, this is no mere semantic distinction, given the history of the precise classification of communications technologies and services having profound ramifications for how these technologies and services are considered by policy-makers and the courts.

Author Biographies

Philip Napoli, Duke University

James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

Robyn Caplan, Data & Society Research Institute
Research Analyst, Data & Society Research Institute
How to Cite
Napoli, P., & Caplan, R. (2017). Why media companies insist they’re not media companies, why they’re wrong, and why it matters. First Monday, 22(5). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i5.7051