Big Giants: The World's Digital Police
A handful of Big Tech corporations now leverage more power than most national governments. When compared with national GDPs, Apple’s market capitalisation ranks 8th in the world. Perhaps more insidious is the ability of these tech giants to become the world’s digital police, as the gatekeepers of the internet. This raises the fundamental question, who rules?
Image credit: CelMetro
Social media has ‘thrust several corporations into unprecedented roles as the arbiters of our new online public square’ (Perrigo, 2021). Take, for example, President Trump’s social media ban following the Capitol riot. Political allegiances aside, it is damning that Silicon Valley CEOs were capable of silencing the most powerful man in the West.
Likewise, our relationships, the way we are governed, and the success of businesses of all sizes fall at the mercy of algorithms. As Baker (2017) starkly puts it, ‘they can decide whether you get a job interview, how much credit you access, and what news you see.’ From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories such as QAnon, these statistical recipes have produced some undesirable consequences. Their business decisions have a profound impact on our daily lives and society.
So what then should our governments be doing to reclaim law and order? The next decade may be critical. One common demand is that lawmakers and regulators reclaim responsibility for digital rights. There has been movement on this, evidenced by recent antitrust cases levelled against the tech giants from an array of different countries. More radically, regulators are also considering breaking up these firms into smaller, more manageable chunks, demonstrated by the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) order for Facebook to sell Giphy (Stolton and Lombardi, 2021). Whatever the solution, it seems that at least now governments have woken up to the threat of these tech giants behaving as rule enforcers.
Perrigo, B. (2021). Big Tech’s Business Model Is a Threat to Democracy: Here’s How to Build a Fairer Digital Future. TIME [Online]. Available at: https://time.com/5931597/internet-reform-democracy/
Baker, J. (2017). Big tech has become the world’s policeman. IPS [Online]. Available at: https://www.ips-journal.eu/in-focus/global-corporations-and-nation-states/big-tech-has-become-the-worlds-policeman-2302/
Stolton, S. and Lombardi, P. (2021). Big Teach braces for breakups as UK opens new era of enforcement. Politico [Online]. Available at: https://www.politico.eu/article/big-tech-breakup-uk-enforcement-era-facebook-giphy/