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The recent outrageous actions of Jack Dorsey, his company and others, both covert and overt, has caused enormous controversy. Not simply his suppression of conservative voices on his platform during the run-up to the American general election – which Donald Trump won – but with the shadow banning that has been going on for some time.
This overt corruption had led to Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and the handful of men who control the world’s biggest on-line companies being branded the tech tyrants, but are they, or more specifically, are others at least partly to blame? The companies involved are, but not limited to: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter.
Although it was restructured as Alphabet in 2015 for business reasons, Google is still the name we see on our computer screens. Last year, it was reported to be the twenty-ninth largest company in the world by revenue. Although there is a handful of tech companies in the same list above it, Google is by far the most influential, some would say the most influential organisation in the world.
Of those companies named above, only Amazon has a reputation for treating its employees badly. The Google HQ at Kings Cross, London, is palatial; its headquarters at Mountain View, California is, well, take a look. Likewise, Facebook pampers its staff. The people who work for such companies are also extremely well remunerated.
Okay, we all know the tech giants monetise our data, but here is what Google gives us in return:
Google is both a search engine and a browser (Chrome). Sign up with Google and you get:
a free e-mail account (Gmail) – pronounced gee mail, in case you didn’t know!
a free blog
a free storage account for your files up to 15Gb (Google Drive)
a free YouTube account to which you can upload videos, or, latterly, hold live hangouts with people on the other side of the world. Unless they are restricted or private, you can watch videos on YouTube without an account. (YouTube was founded by three former Paypal employees in 2005 and sold to Google the following year).
You can also use the Google Newspaper Archive and Google Translate without an account, as well as many other features.
Does this sound like tyranny to you?
Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Along with Bill Gates (pictured), these men are some of the greatest benefactors of Mankind in this or any era. They also have a long track record of philanthropy.
For many years, Google, especially YouTube, had a policy of extreme Libertarianism. It was widely criticised for allowing “hate speech” and all manner of dissenting opinions. Obviously, allowing the world and its dog to post, publish and upload can cause problems. Google is based primarily in the United States in which all but the most outrageous speech is protected by its constitution, but not all countries have followed this path. Therefore, there can be problems with for example blasphemy in Islamic countries. Content that is clearly illegal must be removed. Defamation is also a problem. Currently, over two billion people use YouTube, a staggering number, more than one person in four on the planet. Not all are subscribers, but if only a hundred million people uploaded the occasional video or commented on a blog, ask yourself this question: are all these people legal, decent, honest and truthful; are they all sane; do they all know how to assess information, to sort fiction or even fantasy from fact?
Facebook was founded in 2004 and is available in over a hundred languages; it is very different from YouTube. Facebook was started initially as a social network on a very small scale, but although it is still called a social network, it has expanded far beyond that. At times some of its content can be very unsocial, but there are all manner of legitimate interest groups within.
Like Google, Facebook does not tolerate extreme pornography. Depending on one’s definition, pornography can be found on both sites. So can far more disturbing material. For example, human rights organisations have been known to post graphic videos to inter alia Google and Facebook to generate support for abolishing torture. Murder trials are broadcast on YouTube; at times the testimony and visual exhibits of which can be harrowing.
Therefore, some regulation of these websites is required by law and in accord with their policies. What is happening now though is something very different, but again, to what extent are the Mark Zuckerbergs of this world to blame?