Note — Jul 05, 2020

The Loss Of Public Goods To Big Tech

Seen in → No.133

Source →

Safiya U. Noble, associate professor at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, with a fantastic and damning indictment of Big Tech. First, she reminds us that we cannot automate the though decisions we have ahead, or the long overdue redistribution of power. Noble then shows eloquently that not only do the “Silicon Six” always jump in, regardless of consequences, to sell to police, pitch contact tracing, AI, or predictive analysis (there are some good signs recently, like promises of not selling facial recognition). These titans are also “implicated in decimating and displacing high-quality knowledge institutions — newsrooms, libraries, schools and universities.“ They also pay indecently low taxes, further hurting society and it’s capacity to support citizens and finance so many much needed programs. We need a reckoning for surveillance capitalism, disaster capitalism, inequality, and systemic racism; as well as a rethinking of our public goods.

Sidebar: I always wonder why Netflix is included in the “Silicon Six,” aside from size, I don’t understand why they are included in the condemnations of surveillance capitalism. Apple has other faults but is also not really part of that ad-supported problem. Finally, if you want to talk about hurting public good, what about Uber or Airbnb using VC mountains of cash to wipeout (admittedly very imperfect) taxi industries, and destroy neighbourhoods?

Big Tech is implicated in displacing high-quality knowledge institutions — newsrooms, libraries, schools and universities — by destabilizing funding through tax evasion, actively eroding the public goods we need to flourish. […]

Calls by Black Lives Matter and others to defund the police must include dismantling and outlawing the technologies of governments and law enforcement that exacerbate the conditions of racial and economic injustice. […]

As we struggle with multiple crises at this moment, Big Tech has exacerbated the spread of unreliable and false information and conspiracy theories, undermining trust and slowing efforts by public officials to provide greater protections for the public. […]

Big Tech uses our roads, our airports, our post offices — and rather than help prop up the system to work in the interest of all, the industry eschews responsibility and creates housing and employment crises by relying on gig-workers and contractors. […]

In short, instead of being partners in building the public good, Big Tech continues to profit from its erosion.