Cancer’s plasticity, meaning its cells can change from one form or function to another, gives the disease its endurance and makes it difficult to cure. Big tech has the same plasticity, morphing to address new conditions. Big tech isn’t a disease, of course, but it does have a dark side. Take Google for example. Its search engine seems to have a limitless capacity to collect data which makes it a threat to privacy. In addition, as it grows more monolithic, it strangles competition.
At the moment, Google and the other tech giants are extending their tentacles into politics. Taking a page from the tobacco and oil producers, the industry has morphed into a political machine that operates on the state and federal levels. (“Big Tech’s Big Money Inside Game,” by Mike Tanglis, PublicCitizen News Jan/Feb. 2023, pg. 16.)
Some members of Congress think it’s time to throw the industry’s expansion into remission. To do so, they’ve proposed an 8-year moratorium on antitrust laws that affect news outlets. They intend to give the media collective bargaining rights so they can negotiate fees from the four tech giants– Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook–when they reprint material. Senator Amy Klobuchar reasons the work of keeping the public informed has value and deserves compensation.
Controlling technology’s expansion is no small challenge. Each innovation releases new adaptations onto the internet. One example is the avatar. Technology’s ability to replicate human faces and voices is in its infancy, but Russia and China have rushed to employ this “deep fake” capability in their disinformation campaigns.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy behaves like an avatar, seemingly oblivious to his contradictions. One moment he calls for government transparency. Next, he gives Tucker Carlson of Fox News exclusive access to more than 41,000 hours of Capitol riot surveillance footage. His trust in Carlson, whom some see as a propagandist guilty of spreading disinformation, calls McCarthy’s judgment into question.
If the government wants truth, it should restore the Fairness Doctrine. It required newscasters to report all sides of a controversial issue. Once in place, avatars and humans alike would have to meet the same standard.
No one can guarantee that hatred and bigotry won’t find their way onto the news cycle, of course. Republican state Representative Dave Eastman has managed it. Determined to eliminate social programs, here’s what he had to say about victims of child abuse.
How would you respond to the argument that I have heard on occasion where, in the case where child abuse is fatal, obviously it’s not good for the child, but it’s actually a benefit to society because there aren’t any needs for government service and whatnot over the whole course of that child’s life.
Fiscal fastidiousness often reflects a thinly veiled indifference to others. Blaming the least of these for their misery smacks of privilege. An avatar might be excused for fomenting this cancer. A human being, never.