People have gained a sudden appreciation of just how little in the way of alternatives there are on the Net following a disturbing collusion amongst the biggest Silicon Valley digital empires to silence US President Donald Trump and his followers. Nowhere has this problematic power been on display more than in the shutting down of social media site Parler to which supporters of Trump flocked to after his account was “permanently suspended” on Twitter.
Parler’s apps had been delisted from the mobile app stores of Apple and Google. These two stores supply software to consumer devices that run on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems which, together, account for 99 percent of devices through which ordinary people interact with the Internet. The final nail on Parler’s coffin was hammered in after Amazon Web Services (AWS) pulled out cloud computing support effectively knocking out the site. Parler has since reportedly sued AWS for breach of anti-trust laws.
“AWS’s decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus,” the complaint reads.
“It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.”
That a confluence of actions instigated by a tiny group of technology corporations could silence a United States president, cut off chatter engaged in my tens of millions of Americans, and crush social media platforms seen to be in competition with their lot will likely be the bigger subject to persist in discussions and debate long after Trump’s legacy becomes yesterday’s outrage fad.
Already Big Corporate Silicon Valley is the subject of privacy concerns and public suspicion and anxiety over businesses engaged in what have come to be collectively called “surveillance capitalism” by author Shoshana Zuboff in his best-selling book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. And in his book The Four, Scott Galloway highlights much of Zuboff’s thesis thus…
We know these companies aren’t benevolent beings, yet we invite them into the most intimate areas of our lives. We willingly divulge personal updates, knowing they’ll be used for profit. Our media elevate the executives running these companies to hero status-geniuses to be trusted and emulated. Our governments grant them special treatment regarding anti-trust regulation, taxes, even labor laws. And investors bid their stocks up, providing near-infinite capital and firepower to attract the most talented people on the planet or crush adversaries.
…and goes further to specifically call out the business practices of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple, referring to them as both “the Four Horsemen of god, love, sex, and consumption” and “the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse”. Galloway was prescient in articulating what has become obvious to the broader public only now…
Governments, laws, and smaller firms appear helpless to stop the march, regardless of the Four’s impact on business, society, or the planet.
He also made an interesting observation at the time; that, however, “there’s safety in hatred. Specifically, the Four hate each other. They are now competing directly, as their respective sectors are running out of easy prey.” Unfortunately, this assumption that we are safe from The Four horsemen consolidating their power by colluding against a common “enemy” has since been debunked in light of recent events.
[Parler] chief executive John Matze told Fox News on Sunday that “every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too”.
“We’re going to try our best to get back online as quickly as possible, but we’re having a lot of trouble because every vendor we talk to says they won’t work with us because if Apple doesn’t approve and Google doesn’t approve, they won’t,” he added.
The apparent sudden collective realisation of deals signed with devils is now seemingly manifesting itself in a mad rush in some quarters away from what is increasingly being regarded as Mainstream Internet. TechCrunch, for one, reports how following the Capitol Hill riots, “alternative social apps and private messengers top the app stores“. TechCrunch further observes…
The Parler ban is not the only thing triggering these shifts, to be clear.
There’s also a general backlash underway against big tech, which many on both sides feel has become too powerful.
Perhaps the real legacy of the presidency of Donald Trump will be Big Corporate Tech’s coming days of reckoning — ones that will likely be unfolding over the coming weeks and likely persisting over the coming months and years. We may be seeing the dawn of a second “new economy” as what were once the new kids that ran circles around “old economy” bricks-and-mortar businesses in the late 1990s at the dawn of the Dot Com Era now meet the new kids on the block and, more importantly, new legislation that could finally bring some adult supervision to their party.
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