Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Feb 2018 23:06 UTC
In the News

In other words, it's very likely you love Google, or are at least fond of Google, or hardly think about Google, the same way you hardly think about water systems or traffic lights or any of the other things you rely on every day. Therefore you might have been surprised when headlines began appearing last year suggesting that Google and its fellow tech giants were threatening everything from our economy to democracy itself. Lawmakers have accused Google of creating an automated advertising system so vast and subtle that hardly anyone noticed when Russian saboteurs co-opted it in the last election. Critics say Facebook exploits our addictive impulses and silos us in ideological echo chambers. Amazon’s reach is blamed for spurring a retail meltdown; Apple's economic impact is so profound it can cause market-wide gyrations. These controversies point to the growing anxiety that a small number of technology companies are now such powerful entities that they can destroy entire industries or social norms with just a few lines of computer code. Those four companies, plus Microsoft, make up America's largest sources of aggregated news, advertising, online shopping, digital entertainment and the tools of business and communication. They're also among the world's most valuable firms, with combined annual revenues of more than half a trillion dollars.

The recent focus on technology companies when it comes to corporate power is definitely warranted, but I do find it a little peculiar that it, at the same time, draws attention away from other sectors where giant corporations are possibly doing even more damage to society, like large oil companies and the environment, or the concentration of media companies.

One has to wonder if the recent aggressive focus on tech companies isn't entirely natural.

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Out in front vs behind the scenes
by CodeMonkey on Fri 23rd Feb 2018 16:16 UTC
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I do find it a little peculiar that it, at the same time, draws attention away from other sectors where giant corporations are possibly doing even more damage to society, like large oil companies and the environment

I suspect this is, in large part, because Google and Facebook are more directly a part of peoples everyday life now. Most people can't get through a single day without directly interacting with Facebook or Google in some way, so the societal influence is more visible and apparent to everyone. Oil, pharma, and agriculture (Monsanto, etc.) companies, on the other hand, have been manipulating economies and governments behind the scenes for decades now but it happens on a much "grander" scale where the effects are broader and more prolonged so it's harder to see their impact until way after the fact. While the massive data mining and AI capabilities of Google and Facebook are operating behind the scenes in a similar way, people aren't reacting tho that in an immediate way, only after it's been happening for a while and the damage is well under way. Because of the public facing visibility of them though, I suspect it makes it easier for users / consumers (or which are really Google and Facebook's products) to focus on the companies at all, and then make to trasition to focusing on thier behind the scenes activities.

For instance, Facebook rolls out a new feature, and within days everybody is using it and is talking about how it affects the way they interact with and use Facebook. That primes the mental conversation to also talk about Facebook's larger impact. Now say Monsanto changes a gene in their soybean seed. They don't promote it or publicize; they just start using it. Then 2y go by, and independent farmers all across the country now learn their fields are fallow unless they use Monsanto seeds because of some "invasive" side effect introduced by Monsanto 2y ago. There's no "priming the pump" for a conversation about Monsanto though since people don't think about Monsanto and thier products affecting thier every day lives.

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