Whenever I hear discussions relating to the prevalent censorship and bias at the hands of the tech giants (Facebook, Twitter, Google et al), an argument I hear repeated is that they’re private companies and can do whatever they want. Yes they are private companies, but I don’t think that’s a sufficiently powerful nor persuasive argument for allowing them off the hook. If you’re unaware of the bias and censorship within Silicon Valley then read read my article[^] where I cover these issues.
Here’s why I think anyone proposing that particular argument is wrong.
- Google is the number one search engine across the entire planet, and as such has a large share of the internet-search market. They can control (and censor / filter) their searches to disseminate their own political narrative with ease. Unlike going to the local baker’s to buy a cake, if you get refused for some reason, you can just go to the baker next door and try again. Saying Google is a private company and can therefore have total control over what they do is a little naive. Google are very secretive about how their algorithms work and will no doubt refute any claim that their searches are biased. But you only need to compare the results from Google with that of a neutral search engine (such as DuckDuckGo) and you will see the stark contrast when comparing searches for political terms (I covered this in my previous article).
- The tech giants are more than just tech companies. They are highly influential agents that shape our cultural, political and social landscapes. They step far outside the technical arena in how they shape and influence our day-to-day lives. Many people today get their news from their social media platform of choice e.g. Facebook, Twitter or via organic search via Google. This places them in very influential positions. Rather than merely informing us about the state of current events, they can influence them to fit their own political agenda. This is no longer acting as a neutral observer, but an agent of change and influence.
- As we have recently seen with the de-platforming of Gab.com, the tech giants will collude to crush their competitors. Gab has been de-platformed by (amongst others) Microsoft, Apple, Google, Paypal and Patreon. If this happended in any other industry, there would quite rightly be a public outcry. For some reason, this behaviour seems to be accepted within the tech industry (but only if you have the “right” politics). You can’t have choice in the marketplace, when the technical oligarchs at Silicon Valley will actively crush that competition. So the argument for “Private companies can do what they want” only really applies when there is true competition and an open and fair marketplace. Silicon Valley provides none of these.
So stating that the tech giants are private companies, for me at least, doesn’t constitute a valid argument when considered against the points I’ve made here. They do not operate within the boundaries of a market where there is anything approaching competition. They have huge power and influence that they wield to perpetuate their political agenda. It is this same power that they use (in collusion with other tech giants) to silence and crush their competitors.
I’ll keep posting my usual technical articles, but from time to time I will continue to delve into the political side of things with articles such as these. I’m genuinely interested to hear other people’s opinions on these matters so feel free to share and discuss your own views on these topics.