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  • Tim Bell

Big Tech Should Pay Their Fair Share from Profiting off of Illinois!

A message from SEIU Healthcare IL's Childcare For All Coalition

The pandemic made the richest people in the country even richer while working families were pushed to the brink of hunger and eviction. As we begin to recover, one thing couldn’t be clearer: We need to dramatically expand funding for public services that can support a recovery for working families and make sure the largest corporations pay their fair share. There’s a policy solution that lets us do both: A tax on Big Tech digital advertising. (See: Tech Giants’ Obscene Pandemic Profits Are Begging to Be Taxed: The post-Covid economic recovery looks anything but fair. Tax the titans of the pandemic!)

The Problem: Big Tech corporations like Amazon, Facebook and Google make massive profits on digital ads on their platforms which requires that they constantly surveil users and push more and more bigoted content to keep users engaged, leading to real world harms for the common good- while evading taxes on those profits. Digital ads are a growing $130 billion market that extract and monetize the private information of users in Illinois without compensation. In fact, 99% of Google’s revenue comes from digital ad sales, and Facebook and Google control 60% of the digital ad market. While Big Tech reaps massive profits from surveillance and ads, their outsized power and influence has allowed them to avoid taxation and proper oversight and regulation at all levels of government. Meanwhile, tech companies continue to fuel gentrification, hike housing rates, underpay their workers, contribute to the spread of hate, and harm Black and Brown communities.

The Solution: In Maryland, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Texas, Montana,, Connecticut and New York, communities are fighting back to demand Big Tech pay up by passing digital advertising taxes to fund public education, affordable housing, public university tuition and more. Statewide digital ad taxes are a state solution to Big Tech’s tax evasion. A digital ad tax could raise approximately $450 million annually for Illinois (updated revenue estimates and a detailed analysis will be available by mid-February, along with model legislation/policy memo, and FAQ).

What Are Digital Ad Taxes?

A digital ad tax requires major advertising platforms to pay a small portion (5-10%) of their annual revenue from digital ad sales in a state. Digital ad taxes could bring in around $40 million per every 1 million people in a state per year. This revenue could provide real funding for communities and go towards essential services like affordable accessible housing, free access to broadband internet and schools. The tax is based on where ads are viewed, so the corporations who would be impacted (Big Tech) cannot credibly threaten to leave the state to avoid paying.

How Big Tech Profits from Harming Illinois Communities:

  • Collecting our data without paying for it: Big Tech bombards us with online ads using data they collect without us knowing or being compensated for our personal information. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon make billions off of these ads, by giving advertisers access to the people that use their platforms -- us!

  • Expanding tech-fueled surveillance and policing tools: Tech tools for law enforcement like Facial Recognition software, Shotspotter or Amazon Ring capture data and surveil Black and Brown people. Through close partnership with policing departments and federal agencies, Big Tech has found another exploitative profit stream reliant on its use of personal data.

  • Giving hate groups a platform: The algorithms of YouTube and Facebook push right wing content to users already posting and interacting with such content, while Amazon allows users to sell white supremacist products. This all means Big Tech is profiting from disinformation and racism against our communities.

  • Fueling gentrification and driving up the price of housing: Big Tech has been a central driver in pushing up the price of housing, driving out long term residents and communities of color, pitting cities against one another to extract tax breaks in a race the bottom, and forcing the rest of us to shoulder their tax obligations and pay for the rising housing costs.

How To Take on Digital Ad Tax Campaigns:

  • Build Support: Discuss with your base and coalition partners around what a digital ad tax could fund. Identify and partner with legislative champions.

  • Run Public Legislative Campaign: Launch campaign for DAT as a way to fund essential public services and community needs. Introduce legislation. Demand elected officials commit to support through public facing actions.

  • Integrate Digital Ad Tax Work with Budget and Bargaining Fights: Use budget process to highlight how this revenue could benefit the state. For public sector unions, develop bargaining demands as part of Bargaining for the Common Good to demand public sector employers support a digital ad tax to fund essential public services.

  • Do Public Facing Actions on Tech Targets: Town halls. Actions on Big Tech corporations, their board members. Rallies during budget season. Actions during the Amazon, Facebook and Google shareholder meetings.

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