(Via The Guardian)
When Jonathan Taplin’s book Move Fast and Break Things, which dealt with the worrying rise of big tech, was first published in the UK in April 2017, his publishers removed its subtitle because they didn’t think it was supported by evidence: “How Facebook, Google and Amazon cornered culture and undermined democracy.”
When the paperback edition comes out early next year, that subtitle will be restored.
“It’s been a sea change in just six months,” Taplin said. “Before that, people were kind of asleep.”
In the last year, barely a day has gone by without a scandal placing technology companies in the spotlight, whether for sexual harassment, livestreamed murder, Russian influence operations or terrorist propaganda.
Tech’s annus horribilis started with calls to #DeleteUber, but the way things are going it will end with calls to delete the entire internet.
“2017 has definitely been a year when tech has found there is a target painted on its back,” said Om Malik, a venture capitalist. “The big companies have been so obsessed with growth that there’s been a lack of social responsibility. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.”
The surprise election of Donald Trump acted as a catalyst for scrutiny of the platforms that shape so much of our online experience. Even so, it’s taken many months for the enormity of their role to sink in.
Perhaps the biggest wake-up call has been the showdown in Washington. Congress summoned representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify over their role in a multi-pronged Russian operation to influence the 2016 presidential election. All three companies admitted that Russian entities bought ads on their sites in an attempt to skew the vote.
In Facebook’s case, fake accounts pushed divisive messages in swing states; Google found similar activity across its paid search tool and YouTube; and on Twitter, armies of bots and fake users promoted fake news stories that were favourable to Donald Trump. Similar patterns were identified around the Brexit vote.
“The election shows the stakes involved here,” said Noam Cohen, author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball. “In the past, to be a critic of Silicon Valley was to say the smartphone is making us dumb. Now it’s incompatible with democracy.”
It’s not been the only example of technology companies monetising and distributing unpalatable content and acting surprised when it’s uncovered.
In March, the Times of London revealed that YouTube had paid, via an advertising revenue share, Islamic extremists to peddle hate speech, leading to a boycott from many major advertisers. A second boycott started this month after brands discovered that their ads were appearing alongside content being exploited by paedophiles.
In May, the Guardian’s investigation into Facebook’s content moderation policies revealed that the social network flouted Holocaust denial laws except where it feared being sued. Four months later, Pro Publica discovered that Facebook’s ad tools could be used to target “Jew haters”.
Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, later said she was “disgusted” and “disappointed that our systems allowed this”.
Taplin finds the technology companies’ standard response of “Oops, we’ll fix this” frustrating and disingenuous.
“Come on! What were you thinking?” he said. “If I can target women who drink bourbon in Tennessee who like trucks, then of course I could use it for dark purposes.”
The deepening pockets and growing influence of companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple has raised concerns that they have become Goliaths, threatening the innovation Silicon Valley was once known for.
You only have to look at Snap to see what happens when you nip at the heels of a tech titan like Facebook: first, it makes an offer to buy you – a strategy that worked with Instagram and WhatsApp – and, if that fails, it eliminates you.
In Snap’s case, this meant watching Facebook clone all of Snapchat’s features – awkwardly at first, but relentlessly until Snapchat’s potential slice of the advertising market shriveled to a sliver.
“[The Snap CEO] Evan Spiegel is having his hat handed to him,” Taplin said, noting how Snap’s stock had plummeted since the company went public in March.
As power consolidates into the hands of a few, the best a startup can hope for is to be bought by one of the tech giants. This, in turn, leads to further consolidation.
So the five largest tech companies – desperate to avoid the kind of antitrust regulation that disrupted IBM and Microsoft’s dominance – are flooding Washington with lobbyists, to the point where they now outspend Wall Street two to one.
“Regulation is coming,” said Malik. “We have got to prepare for that. Everybody has figured out that we are the enemy number one now because we are rich and all the politicians smell blood.”
It doesn’t help that there’s a rising number of former Silicon Valley engineers and business leaders who have morphed into tech dissenters, complaining about the addictive properties of the platforms and call for people – particularly children – to unplug.
In November, Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, said the social network knew from the outset it was creating something addictive, something that exploited “a vulnerability in human psychology” – a damning critique somewhat undermined by the fact that it was being delivered from the top of an enormous money pile generated by that exploitation.
The vast wealth on display in Silicon Valley – in the private commuter buses, sprawling campuses and luxury condos – does little to endear the companies and their employees to the rest of the world. Like it or not, tech workers have become the shining beacons of prosperity and elitism, shining a bit too brightly at a time of increasing income inequality.
The fact that $700 internet-connected juicers can raise $120m in funding before folding adds to the sense that Silicon Valley has lost its grip on reality.
“Silicon Valley at its core wants to solve problems. I just think we’ve lost touch with the types of problems that actual people need solving,” said Ankur Jain, who set up Kairos Society to encourage more entrepreneurs to solve problems where everyday people are being financially squeezed, such as housing, student loans and job retraining in the face of automation.
“People are so removed from the rest of the ecosystem in Silicon Valley that these problems feel more like charity issues rather than issues that affect the vast majority of the population,” Jain said.
For Malik, many of the problems stem from the fact that Silicon Valley companies have remained “wilfully ignorant” of the fact that “at the end of every data point there is a human being”.
All the problems to have arisen over the last year are particularly jarring given the tech companies’ continued insistence that they are doing good for the world.
“It’s a form of gaslighting to have these companies doing so many harmful things telling you how great they are and how much they are helping you. It’s another form of abuse,” Cohen said.
Malik agreed. “Silicon Valley is very good at using words like empathy and social responsibility as marketing buzzwords, but they are terms that we need to internalise as an industry and show through our actions by building the right things,” he said. “Otherwise it’s all bullshit.”
Trump judges…….The Purge!
I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.
That great lyric from Ice Cube has more bite and meaning in the run up to the 2020 election. Now we have the investigation of the investigators. The Mueller investigation and everything it has encompassed is now being scrutinized. We are finally looking at indictments and guilty pleas from the corrupt cabal that tried to bring down, frame, jail and impeach a duly elected, INNOCENT president and anyone in his sphere. Getting to the point of investigating the investigators has been a long hard slog.
We did not foresee how really deep and treacherous the swamp really was. You could investigate, indict and try someone like a Hillary Clinton for example, and someone of authority in that chain is a corrupt actor from the Deep State and you will then see the guilty party skate free. Or you can have a completely innocent Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, George Papodopoulos railroaded by a corrupt judge. The Michael Flynn case is the most glaring. The DOJ has dropped the case and charges against him and in an unprecedented move the judge does not drop the case, he extends it as if he is the prosecutor.
So there is a light at the end of the tunnel my friends. Donald Trump has been appointing a record number of federal judges. This is a brilliant move and somewhat frustrating and time consuming. But there is a method to the madness. Why investigate, indict and try just for a Deep State judge to let the guilty party walk free? Donald Trump has appointed over 300 judges and counting. More will be appointed to the bench and now there is a more likely chance when the guilty parties are tried, there will be justice. So there is a silver lining in this swamp covered cloud.
By Michael Ameer
The reckoning of the fake news media.
Karma, the sweet smell of poetic justice, the bully gets punched in the nose in the end! Fake news finally gets counted out and David to the Goliath is a teenager named Nicholas Sandmann the MAGA hat wearing unassuming media slayer.
Nicholas Sandmann and his legal team has announced a settlement with The Washington Post on their $250 Million dollar suit. This comes also on the heels of the multi-million dollar suit against CNN. They have stated 2 down and six to go. Here is their list:
NBC, CBS, ABC, NYT, Gannett, Rolling Stones.
Many have tried to get the media companies to report fairly but even Billionaire hardball players like Donald Trump are impotent against the media smear machines. Politicians, celebrities and any adults in the public realm have diminished rights when it comes to defending their reputation against lies and attacks from media behemoths. This is a sad state of affairs and what’s lead to the monumental rise of fake propaganda news.
In steps Nicholas Sandmann who was wrongly accused by many media outlets when the story broke of belligerent teens harassing a Native American man beating a drum in a rally. There were duel rallies in the area. Since the teen was wearing a MAGA hat the news media or better yet fake news media went into overdrive bashing the kids. When the whole video was viewed any honest person could see the kids did nothing wrong in the whole confrontation. But this blatant truth means nothing to fake news. They hate Trump so lies are okay as long as it hurts their intended target. Nicholas Sandmann is a normal American well behaved teen. With him being a teen or minor the laws give him protections not afforded a public figure. So he could aggressively defend himself with a good legal team. Now truth and justice has a chance to rule and not the mob rule of the left. If this could happen more often we would have a more honest press. But we know they have financial donors and backers that pay them to spread these lies so we will have to see what is coming down the pike in hopes there will be more honesty in reporting. But don’t hold your breathe.
By Michael Ameer
Should the media and politicians be held responsible for fraudulent hydroxychloroquine reports?
Saying a drug that clearly works, doesn’t work is Trump Derangement Syndrome beyond comprehension.
The Lancet Study on Hydroxychloroquine was fraught with errors and incomplete data. It was thrown together to let the world know that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. Well that study was retracted. A Henry Ford Health System study found the drug helped patients with COVID-19. Just as the president was saying. Trump mentioned HCQ and the collective mainstream media went into overdrive to prove him wrong. And once again Trump accused of lie of the century turns out to be right. He was clearly right in the beginning. The media said the drug could cause harm if not used correctly. That could also be said about aspirin or any drug.
Taking this derangement one step further was governors making it hard to get HCQ and banning it in some places from use. Now we know in hindsight the drug works and these politicians and media companies as CNN are libel for deaths of Coronavirus patients that died when a life saving drug was readily available in stockpile. Also the governors sending the elderly with COVID-19 into nursing homes with the most vulnerable also caused many unnecessary deaths. Weren’t we told we had to save our grandparents? If we loved them don’t visit them to be safe? So why would governors send COVID-19 patients to nursing homes when they (New York) mainly was provided thousands of empty hospital beds on the navy ship and the convention center?
I have been following these people long enough to know these things are not an accident. Germany and Israel sent the United States millions of tablets of HCQ. They were at the ready and cheap. It’s been used for malaria since the 1960’s so the side effects have been tested, it is safe. Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister was saved with HCQ. Thousands around the world have been saved with this drug. So we must ask the question when will the media and politicians be dragged into a court of law for their negligent reckless reporting?
By Michael Ameer