The Tyranny of Big Tech by Josh Hawley is an exposé of the immense control over the economic, political, and social conditions in the U.S. enjoyed by the digital technology industry. The rise of the Information Age has coincided with the growth of an industry that, in many ways, resembles the monopolies of the Gilded Age robber barons. In the U.S., Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter are the main corporations of Big Tech.
President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to thwart the influence of the powerful monopolists in order to protect the liberty of the common man and woman for self government and public life. But the corporate liberalism brought about by Woodrow Wilson began to change the meaning of liberty to an individualistic, private form no longer common or publicly influential. This helped set the stage for acceptance of corporate merger and control, and presaged the rise of Big Tech.
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was originally written to make sure that the internet did not become a provider of child pornography. But the tech giants argued that they were not publishers of third party content, and the Act was rewritten (more than once). The Act contains a Section 230, essentially allowing them to promote or censor whatever they wish. Utilizing Section 230 in conjunction with ever-strengthening algorithms has led to unbridled behavioral analysis and manipulation.
Before the 2020 election, a report by the New York Post concerning Hunter Biden’s, and possibly Joe Biden’s, misdeeds in Ukraine led to Facebook and Twitter suppressing the story. A whistleblower from Facebook provided Senator Hawley with information about Facebook’s user monitoring and tracking tools, Tasks and Centra, which are part of Big Tech’s coordinated “content moderation.” This led to Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to Senator Hawley, Big Tech invades our privacy, follows us as much as it can, uses its powerful algorithms to manipulate us to addiction and outrage, censors the people at will, and selectively releases news items, all to further its power and control. And it requires no permission to do so, nor can it be held to account.
A reconstructed Section 230 could provide “decentralized, open-source, pro-privacy communications protocols for peer-to-peer messaging and user-curated content feeds…online tools for video hosting, blogging and shopping…available to users without thrusting it on them by means of a corporate recommendation engine.” And without inescapable surveillance, manipulation, and censorship.
To break the hold of big tech it is necessary, inter alia, to seek political changes, to support new anti-trust legislation, to end the current Section 230, to adopt legislation making the tech companies’ terms of service binding and enforceable, to revitalize genuine social relationships between real people, especially family, and to demand that our right to free speech is unhindered for all citizens.
32nd Avenue Books, Toys & Gifts
September 12, 2021
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