(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.”
Neo-Con & Israeli Puppet Dan Crenshaw Lies About America First Patriots, Just Like He Did About Trump
Dan Crenshaw continued an onslaught of attacks against Nick Fuentes, Michelle Malkin, and America First patriots by labeling them “vehement racists, antisemites, & ethnic nationalists”. This is a far cry from the truth. He also went on again to call America First patriots as ‘antisemitic’ in a response to Michelle Malkin blocking him. Dan Crenshaw also supported Red Flag laws, something that also got him a lot of flack. He also criticized Donald Trump in 2016 on top of coming out in favor of same-sex marriage, all of which that has been questioned and exposed of Mr. McCain, oops, we mean Crenshaw.
It is very apparent Mr. Crenshaw has nothing but an ‘Israel First’ policy, constantly making linear conclusions between conservatism and support for Israel. Making his own opinion that if you don’t support Israel, you don’t support America. A very sick and warped view of America Politics in general, some would say traitorous. Dan Crenshaw represents the worse the establishment can offer so far, he must be unseated, exposed, and further more shammed from the conservative movement, along with all the other conservative grifters and Conservative Inc. types.
Matt is correct. They use slogans like “America first” to get conservatives to sympathize with them. But after personally dealing with them, it’s pretty obvious they are vehement racists, anti-semites & ethnic-nationalists.
Conservatives need to know the difference. https://t.co/9PHwWumnU0
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 19, 2019
I guess it’s offensive to point out that conservatives are 100% different than these misguided alt-right anti-semites?
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 19, 2019
Dan on Red Flag Gun Laws:
It’s clear that there has been some confusion about what conservatives would support when it comes to laws that try to better protect our communities. Let’s address this directly. Watch. pic.twitter.com/TRYjPIclEm
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) August 10, 2019
Dan’s Facebook Post from 2016 denouncing Trump’s “hateful rhetoric”:
Conservative Inc. Coordinates Attack on Nick Fuentes and Michelle Malkin for being America First Patriots
Since the ‘Groyper War’ Phase 1 was a decisive victory following the November 14th ‘Change my Mind’ rip-off Charlie Kirk attempted to pull off, this late weekend we’ve seen a new onslaught of attacks from many mainstream Republican pundits, attacking Nick Fuentes and Michelle Malkin for their American First allegiance. Conservative Inc. is scared of the true conservatives exposing them and their big donor’s motives & hypocrisy. Even YAF (Young Americans Foundation) who even recently hosted Michelle Malkin, disavowed “holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists”. A slew of other clips and comments were made by Guy Benson, Michael Knowles, Stephen Miller, Bradon Tatum,Jordan Schachtel, & Matt Walsh.
Twitter threads about Fuentes and Malkin
There is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists.
Our full statement below: pic.twitter.com/b5EB7P53v3
— YAF (@yaf) November 17, 2019
The Cancel culture is alive & well—Michelle Malkin is their latest victim. If conservatism dies it’s not because of Trump, the alt-right or a faux Russia collusion. It’s because it’s filled with cowards who enable the delegitimization efforts of the Left https://t.co/1GfpDugUsV
— Denise McAllister (@McAllisterDen) November 18, 2019
Michelle Malkin identified a Holocaust denier & open anti-Semite, whose history she was well aware of, & repeatedly proclaimed to crowds that she would not disavow him. She then falsely ID'd him as a leader of a mainstream movement. Her conduct is insanely harmful & inexcusable.
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) November 17, 2019
‘Groyper’ leader on segregation:
“Enough with the Jim Crow stuff. Who cares? ‘Oh, I had to drink out of a different water fountain.’ Big f—ing deal…oh no, they had to go to a different school…And even if it was bad, who cares?…it was better for them, it’s better for us.” pic.twitter.com/ZJ7LqpTHgL
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 18, 2019
Wait a second…
Are you telling me the guy who publicly supports Jim Crow, marched with Richard Spencer, says the Holocaust didn't happen, called for executions at CNN, and refers to people as "shabbos goy race traitors" might have a problem with certain racial minorities? https://t.co/BrOxub1r0y
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) November 18, 2019
Problems like that fucking green screen nerd Fuentes usually solve themselves. If Malkin wants to choose to be flushed with that turd, so be it.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) November 18, 2019
No, I went back and watched your shows. You come across as a racist. If this video is edited, post the unedited version were you don't sound like a white supremacis.
Don't complain about @charliekirk11 when you send your people after him.
— Brandon Tatum (@TheOfficerTatum) November 18, 2019
Hi @michellemalkin. Fuentes called me a "race traitor" and "f*ggot" because I "work for Jews." He also said that black people who complained about segregation needed to "grow up." How do you feel about these statements? And in what way are they "America First"? https://t.co/fz8qcXrRCl
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) November 18, 2019
Tweets Supporting Fuentes and Malkin
The Keepers of the Gate have spoken. #AmericaFirst is not "mainstream." My defense of unjustly prosecuted Proud Boys, patriotic young nationalists/groypers & demographic truth-tellers must not be tolerated. SPLC is cheering. https://t.co/yYyqocx1T5
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) November 17, 2019
When Ben Shapiro wrote his column advocating ethnic cleansing of Arabs, he was about the same age as Nick Fuentes is now.
Yet Shapiro, who expects a pass for his quasi-genocidal columns, offers no decency to those who have said the same type of fucked of shit he was saying.
— Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) November 17, 2019
— The Hill (@thehill) November 17, 2019
Do you hear that? It's the sound of Kirk screaming. pic.twitter.com/vcT3ISeS6a
— Mister AntiBully (@MisterAntiBully) November 18, 2019
No Nation Is An Idea
The concept that “America is a timeless placeholder of ideas” is a common talking point that has been in circulation from both Conservative Inc., and the broader American Left for many years now. This saying is typically used as a divergence from addressing important policies as they pertain to mass immigration. Often, it is also used to stifle the growth of an American National Populist movement. Clearly, the unelected elites calling shots around the Western world seek to undermine valid and critical debate of the role of National Populism. Rather than emphasizing the importance of health, stable families, community, housing, and wages, our leaders have an obsession with growing GDP, doing the bidding of predatory crony capitalists who are constantly pushing to import cheap labor, and retaining power for generations to come.
The fact of the matter is, Americans (and humans in general) seek more than cheap, 4k television sets, quirky tupper-ware for last night’s leftovers, and salad shooters that break after a few uses. We are innately spiritual beings who long for community, order, and social cohesion. The United States of America is not an idea… actually, no nation is an idea. As further disorder ensues among the population, the elites have made sure to use their corporate-funded foot soldiers as a means to promote a very new, Neo-Liberal agenda. This agenda is the concept that the beautiful mountains, forests, and lakes of our Nation would mean absolutely nothing without this arbitrary term of “ideas.” The blood, sweat, and tears American workers shed producing automobiles in Michigan, the early mornings for the farmers of Iowa, and the dedicated fishermen of California, all mean nothing if this is but a plot of land where the British came to talk about the importance of small government.
Although we can appreciate the writings of philosophers like John Stuart Mill, John Locke, and Adam Smith, the “marketplace of ideas” means absolutely nothing to people who see the world completely different than you. It is apparent that the philosophy of our ancestors and founding fathers have changed the world. In an American context, the very concepts of things like liberty, freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms should be held in the highest regard. Among Conservatives and the American Right, these values are not even up for debate. Unfortunately, much of Conservative Inc. (who are just liberals who want to keep more of their money) do not recognize (or are blatantly ignorant to) the sacrifices made by the ones who came before them.
To put this into perspective, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk previously stated, “I have loyalty to ideas.” Kirk says, “Of course I love the Grand Canyon. I love the Rocky Mountains. And I love Boston. And I love Chicago. But if all that disappeared, if all I had was ideas, and we were on an island, that’s America. That’s Israel. And that’s what people have to realize, America’s just a placeholder for timeless ideas. And if you fall too in love with, oh, the specific place, and all this…that’s not what it is.” What Kirk fails to recognize is that the physical reality of a Nation is what manifests those very ideas he holds so dear.
Nations are unique, with celebrations and folktales that those who inhabit the land feel relation to. Nations are made up of a people. Nations are traditions. Nations are land, resources, and landmarks. Nations are history – the good, the bad, and the ugly. No Nation is an idea.