(I drafted this in November 2017, as you can see from the links, but never published it. Shame on me. I should have then and am now. Join columnist Adam Lashinsky at Fortune, who committed in February to calling Facebook a publisher.)

November 6, 2017

I’m tired of Business Insider, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and many other media companies calling Facebook, Twitter, and Google “big tech.” They are not technology companies. They are media companies — publishers — supported by advertising.

By granting them the label “big tech,” you lend strength to their pleas that they are not responsible for the advertisements or media (paid or user-generated — it doesn’t matter which) they publish. But these are not technology companies. They are media companies. Here’s how to tell them apart:

  • Technology companies build products and services that customers pay for. Apple, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Salesforce are technology companies.
  • Media companies use media to sell advertisements. Comcast, The New York Times, and Time Warner are media companies. And so are Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Here’s a simple test to see if a company is a media company. If they answer “yes” to these two questions, then they are a media company:

  1. Do they make money through advertising?
  2. Do they use media to sell advertisements?

Media companies have an editorial responsibility to their customers and shareholders to obey the law of the land and, also, to achieve something loftier: hold customers’ trust. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are media companies. Just like every media company, they are responsible for the advertisements and media (paid or user-generated; doesn’t matter which) they publish.