The worst situation to be in is where you know that what you have is not ideal but you have no idea what would be ideal. We find ourselves in this predicament in way too many facets of life for my liking.
We end up sounding like serial murmurers because of it. ‘Abolish this, put an end to that,’ we say, and then they ask us, ‘And replace it with what?’ and we are stumped. ‘Just abolish it,’ we are forced to cry, like spoilt babies.
‘Capitalism is responsible for a growing income disparity, let us abolish it!’ Is the cry. We can all see that capitalism is flawed, we are playing by the rules but the rich keep getting richer. However, we forget that the poor have been getting richer too, albeit at a slower pace.
Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been falling under the watch of Uncle Capitalism. Where we had close to 2 billion people in extreme poverty in 1990, that figure had fallen to around 659 million in 2019. That’s still 659 million too many but we can’t deny the progress.
I mention this because the alternatives to capitalism have a terrible track record. Of all that we have tried before, capitalism has had the better drawbacks. So, when I see these Ama2000s (GenZers) call for socialism and communism I get worried.
The age-old saying rings in my head, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’
The internet is now part of our daily lives and unfortunately for us, only a handful of companies, mostly American, control it. These include Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. We have talked about big tech’s influence several times and shall not go into it again.
- Big Tech needs regulation and why you should care
- The big tech companies have really given Russia the middle you know what
- The control of information flow by American tech companies during Russia-Ukraine war is scary
These concerns are shared by many, including some in the U.S. itself. In their own country, they deal with perceived political bias. Democrats still moan that Facebook was used as a tool to help put Donald Trump in office. Republicans have a stronger case, the liberal Big Tech employees are clearly biased against them.
Those are small potatoes though when we look at the potential they have to influence global politics. When Russia invaded Ukraine and the world was united in condemning that action, we ended up looking to Big Tech to exercise their muscle and cripple them.
They did just that. They controlled the narrative, to the point of not allowing any nuanced discussion about the war. It was all ‘Putin bad’ and nothing else was tolerated.
The same happened at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. You were not allowed to discuss the findings of some scientists that natural immunity could be as effective as the jab. Only to find out that that is indeed the case.
This suppression of dialogue is often at the behest of politicians and other world leaders. Big Tech happily obliges so that the same world leaders turn a blind eye to the incredible power they yield. After all, if politicians can wield that power when convenient, why would they fight to curtail it?
It is with this backdrop that I am amazed that world leaders continue trying to unleash the beast.
Eastern Europeans giving Big Tech carte blanche
Eight European countries have signed a letter urging Big Tech companies to act against foreign information manipulation and interference.
We have seen this all before. At one point saying that Covid-19 could have leaked from a lab was considered racist disinformation and was thus censored. Today, we can freely talk about that, it is now accepted as a possibility.
So, why was it suppressed back then? Why couldn’t we talk about it and present arguments against it and crush it that way? I don’t know. World leaders do not like being questioned, I guess. They therefore almost always resort to authoritarianism when the chance presents itself.
So, when these Eastern Europeans urge Big Tech to act against foreign information manipulation they mean they don’t want to have to debate. They want to sit down with Big Tech and decide on what qualifies as information and what is disinformation. Then the disinformation is censored.
So, who decides what is disinformation under this arrangement? Politicians and the likes of Mark Zuckerberg. What could possibly go wrong? It’s not as if any of those parties would ever arbitrarily use that power to squash narratives they don’t like.
I might be naive but I think the best way to combat disinformation is to tackle it with proper information.
We all own at least one tinfoil hat and are prone to believe a conspiracy theory now and then and so our senses tingle when we see one narrative being suppressed. So, even if it’s complete nonsense, we are left wondering why the authorities would suppress it.
The Europeans propose,
The signatories emphasize the importance of cooperation and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders – governments, civil society, experts, and academia – to ensure an effective whole-of-society response to disinformation.
The establishment will decide what disinformation is and that will be that. No Zimbabwean could ever endorse such a system. We know what the landscape would look like if the government had control over what was disinformation and worthy of censure.
Big Tech has shown that it cannot be trusted and politicians remain politicians. Yet if these Eastern Europeans got their way, those two groups would have a lot of influence on what was allowed on the internet. That’s not a future I want to see.
I would love it if the Big Tech they are calling on ended up exercising this power they want to give them to help effect regime changes in those countries. Then no one else would dare ask these American billionaires to be world prefects.
It is what it is. There are valid concerns about disinformation on the internet. No one in their right mind would dispute that. The solution to that can’t be to ask Big Tech to decide what’s what on our behalf though.
It’s a case of what we have is not ideal but what these guys are promising is not it. Yet, if that precedent is set, we will suffer for it down here in Southern Africa.
What do you think about all this? Do you want Sundar Pichai to decide what you are allowed to post on the interwebs? Let us know in the comments section below.