In a telling story from our time, Google and Facebook have been the target of serious accusations in recent weeks, only to then release quarterly revenue that shows together they generated $ 93 billion in sales in just three months. !
The company led by Mark Zuckerberg came under siege after the publication of internal documents leaked by whistleblower Frances Haughen, which showed that the company had serious problems with its platforms, including the spread of disinformation, incitement to violence, human trafficking and even a lack of local control over these matters and corporate operations in most countries of the world, including several high-risk countries where civil war and even ethnic cleansing had taken place. occurred. What was Marc’s response? Rename the company “Meta” and try to sound innovative by announcing a social media hub to the multiverse, dismissing the “Facebook Papers” as a “coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false image of our business.” .
Google / Alphabet has managed to go under the radar thanks to the decisions of CEO Sundar Pichai. Yet a lawsuit unsealed by a New York judge paints a rather damning picture, showing how the biggest player in the digital space has used its market power to crush the competition while having secret meetings with Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. to kill privacy. – related regulations.
These issues should come as no surprise to readers of this column, but the publication of documents showing that these things happened and that management was aware of them helps debunk the myth of the Silicon Valley giants working for the general good of society. and making profits accordingly. Of course, that’s not to say that Google, Facebook, and the rest of the big tech companies haven’t done much to improve the lot of a substantial portion of the human population, but their continued growth and evolution requires a critical review and a kind of framework to reduce negative externalities.
Zuckerberg is the perfect tech-billionaire-villain. His company’s founding story has portrayed him as a ruthless entrepreneur of unmatched ambition, while his successive public appearances as one of the world’s most powerful CEOs have revealed a disciplined and focused ‘robot’. the laser. He is almost “not human” to the point that he has started an internet conspiracy dubbing him a “lizard person”. Facebook has faced a series of public scandals, the largest so far being Cambridge Analytica.
The Facebook Papers scandal comes at a very different time for Facebook and Zuckerberg, both of which have been in the limelight for at least five years since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, and with increased blood pressure reaching the river by them. United States. Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, the level of polarization and aggressiveness of public discourse, and, of course, the riots in which a group of overweight white men raided the Capitol in Washington in order to disrupt the democratic process, has definitely changed the public perception of Facebook. The whistleblower Haughen leak corroborates what had been suggested for years by anecdotal evidence and reports: Facebook and its social media products have some disturbing side effects related to the power of attraction of platforms and billions of people who use them. These range from mental health issues in adolescents to incitement to violence without any kind of centralized control in countries where people have been killed, making the effect worse. Zuckerberg’s company has nearly 70,000 employees, a 20% increase from the previous year, but it was unable to hire “language experts” in the three countries most at risk, according to its staff. own research (Myanmar, Pakistan, Ethiopia), in only six countries. ten “level 1” countries and no “level two” countries. This means that a large majority of the globe does not have localized content moderation. This is just one of the many major issues revealed by the leaked documents.
Zuckerberg’s response? Change the conversation. In his announcement where he said that Facebook will now be called Meta and that it will publish financial results separating its app business – Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp – from its metaverse division called Reality Labs. A discussion of whether Zuck’s take on what the Metaverse will look like – a series of interconnected digital experiences that will span from web to virtual reality and cover everything from gaming to work – is interesting and valuable given of their ability to shape the future of the digital world. Yet, with Meta causing so much harm to so many people, it’s unsettling to see the founder and CEO of Facebook push them away as he paints a picture full of love and well-being of the future. It’s clear that the level of complexity of managing and overseeing content on the Facebook family of products is extreme, but Zuckerberg just doesn’t seem to care.
When it comes to Alphabet, Google’s holding company, at least they know better how to pretend. CEO Pichai is good at explaining why the company is focused on improving the user experience to the maximum extent that its algorithms and artificial intelligence allow it. Yet behind the scenes, the company’s top priority continues to be its bottom line.
According to the charge brought by the attorneys general of 16 US states and Puerto Rico, the search giant conspired and colluded to manipulate and consolidate its control of the digital advertising market. Not only did they rig the system in their favor while controlling both sides of the counter (the buy side and the sell side), but they actively sabotaged the technologies that increased competition in the ecosystem (header), everything by colluding with Facebook (the second largest player after Google itself) and other big tech companies to stifle privacy regulations.
While this may seem like a technical thing that only matters to those working in the digital ad space, these manipulations have a profound impact on the incentive system that powers the digital ecosystem. Rather than working to improve the end-user experience, Google conspires to create a corrupted information ecosystem that incites the rise of clickbait content, misinformation and obsession across its multiple products, all of which are powered by top-notch AI.
Ultimately, it becomes increasingly evident that Zuckerberg and Alphabet / Google senior executives are just not interested in fixing these underlying issues.