Look around the world today, and some of the biggest names around are entirely based online. Companies like Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google and the like all dominate the business world. The likes of Silicon Valley, massive business hubs, create opportunities for tech firms to further control what they want the world to do next. When tech people spot a problem in the world, they often look to use the power of technology to solve that problem. While it might be a noble pursuit, part of the issue with such companies holding incredible sway is that they don’t often get to have a barrier on the decisions that they make.
From how private data is essentially a market that nobody agreed to enter to how technology is creating an always-online, always-listening and totally surveilled world, there’s some serious questions we need to ask. In a rush to let these companies uplift us into a new technological age and to take us further than ever before, nobody seems to have asked what the end game for these companies are.
It’s only when you start to see the worrying links of such large-scale companies to less ethical projects that the mind begins to wonder ‘are companies like this too big?’
But in reality how do you stop them now?
Social media essentially filters everything we read and hear. With so much power, these companies are more or less becoming arbiters over what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – that’s very dangerous.
Big online stores and marketplaces have played a pretty big role in wiping out conventional business. With so many people hooked to the ease and convenience, how can you make that stop?
The time to do something about it, many feel, has simply been and already gone.
The concern of trust being eroded
One of the biggest problems that we see at the moment is how all of these services work to benefit themselves. For example, Google was hit with a whopping $2.7bn European Union fine. That fine was for using their own search engine solution to help favor results for their own services and products. However, if you never read the above page, would you actually know this took place? It’s unlikely. Why? Because most of us get our news from the very company being fined in the first place.
What kind of company posts negative news about themselves?
You don’t see any company in business, sport or any other industry point the finger at themselves. Better to just make sure that nobody sees that story, right?
That’s part of the problem. Companies that have so much leverage in day-to-day institutions of modern life have more or less untapped power. You even get people accusing Google of choosing what kind of YouTube content receives monetization from advertising. If it goes against the political ideology of the platform, don’t expect to see the same results as someone who sticks to the agreed upon company line in politics.
That’s a dangerous period in human history to find ourselves within. From the monopolization of key parts of the internet to the fact that companies can own so much of global enterprise, there is ample opportunity to see where things might be going – and why that might not be a good thing.
When people talk about the concept of companies who dominate the online sphere being too big, it’s not through jealousy. It’s through a concern that increased monopolization of the internet is coming, and a failure to try and halt that will leave us with a take-it-or-leave it choice online.
Can companies of such size be curbed?
Not really, to be honest. It’s like trying to launch an independent burger bar to take on McDonalds; sooner or later you will lose out. There is nothing that can be done to overcome a business that has seemingly limitless wealth, access to the right people and opportunity to control the narrative. How do you build a competitor when the very tools needed to actually build a following are often in control of your competition in the first place?
The idea of a more dystopian reality isn’t quite so fanciful now, unfortunately. Another problem is the growing issue of ‘net neutrality’ – where companies can essentially ensure they get the biggest cut of the service speed pie. It might sound odd to people in other parts of the world, but the end of net neutrality means that the biggest companies can essentially make you pay to get access to their service at an acceptable speed.
That’s a huge problem. It means that in many parts of the world it’s too expensive to build a second option, so people are stuck with the one single choice. The fear is that before long we’ll have one single news outlet, one single media platform and one kind of content creation platform. The death of competition and outside views is becoming a critical problem in society.
It’s seen in every walk of life. From politics becoming far more built around grandiose speeches and TV captured moments over sound policy, the internet is becoming increasingly closed off due to reactionary paranoia. As people see stories about data privacy invasion and companies controlling what information is seen and heard, though, is that even a good thing?
It cannot be a good thing, in truth. Corporations controlling narratives never is.
How has this even happened?
Mix together incredible rises in technological capacity with a damaging political climate, and you get this scenario. From ‘fake news’ to ‘Russian bots’, we are constantly told that information that goes against the mainstream narrative is actually just a mirage: and to protect us from it, companies on one side of the spectrum will merely turn off our ability to read anything that goes against that narrative.
Sad to say, but these kind of tactics – suppression of alternative views to ‘keep the people safe’ – is every bit as deranged and terrifying as the scare story governments of yesteryear used to justify such moves. If you don’t believe that a handful of companies having controlling interests in everything from media to content creation is a negative trend, we’d love to know why.
Society stands on a pretty edgy cliff-face at the moment: if we don’t take a step back soon, we might never stop falling off the edge.