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Big tech companies are still misdiagnosing why they have so many enemies.
This week, Mark Zuckerberg told interviewers that people and organizations are losing control of the world blaming Facebook for the changes they are seeing. Last week, Jeff Bezos countered criticism of Amazon by calculating the value of his company to shoppers, employees, and businesses.
Basically, the sentiment behind these executives’ messages is this: If people don’t appreciate our company’s contribution to the world, they’re wrong.
Zuckerberg and Bezos were right, but they also missed the point. They do not acknowledge the underlying cause of government investigations of technology companies and criticism from some competitors and business partners: Where there is power, there is doubt. And technology companies are some of the most powerful forces in the world.
It’s been more than a decade since the tech industry emerged from the financial crisis as an industry that has influenced economies and how we live and see the world. And I’m amazed that technology bosses may still appear to be ignorant of the reason behind questioning their industry. Repeat after me: It was about their strength.
Doubt may not always be fair or effective. But executives like Bezos and Zuckerberg have super loud speakers, and it’s important that they misinterpret (or deliberately misinterpret) why some people in the world, including customers like us. You can worry about their power.
To give some examples: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube froze former President Donald J. Trump after he repeatedly posted false statements about election fraud and incited a crowd of people. into the US Capitol. Soon, a Facebook-created quasi-judicial agency will decide whether Trump should reinstate his account.
Apple is about to reprogram iPhone software in a way that can dramatically limit the amount of data all companies collect about us.
These companies can decide for themselves whether world leaders have a large platform for talking face-to-face with the people and strengthening America’s data-tracking industries. Leaving aside the decisions of companies here, it’s troubling that the few unelected tech executives have so much power.
The boss of a company that sells fire pits in the backyard asked The Wall Street Journal: “Why is Apple deciding now?” That’s exactly the right question, and not just about Apple. One of the big questions facing our era is: What, if any, should be done with a few tech companies with so much power?
Are Amazon and the performers reworking the nature of the US economy and work? And is that true? Is it fair that Google, Facebook and Twitter are the State Ministries, with the authority to decide whether to abide by the laws of repressive speech or against them?
When a few giant tech companies have equal power to governments, it deserves attention and exploration. Sometimes I think the tech executives get this. Bezos frequently says that large and important organizations including Amazon deserve oversight. (Who knows if he meant it.)
Tech companies are right that there is often misplaced anger toward them over broader social disparities including income polarization and inequality. They are right that when some government officials pursue them, it is often for self-interest.
But tech companies want to be in a position where they have a lot of influence. They wanted to change the world – and they did. They cannot and should not be surprised that so many people and authorities are now questioning why these companies have so much power and whether they are using it wisely.
What is the role of technology in combating climate change and improving public health? On Thursday, The New York Times will hold chats with experts about that question and more. Click this link to register for virtual events.
Before we go …
Her online videos challenged the official narrative: A key piece of evidence in Tuesday’s murder conviction against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd last year, is a video recorded by a teenager and posted to Facebook. My colleagues Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Marie Fazio have written about the young Darnella Frazier and the power of screen witnessing.
India’s information vacuum is filled by citizens: As coronavirus cases rise in India, volunteer-run online Twitter spreadsheets, apps and chains have become essential helplines to try to compensate for the failures of action. Government, Rest of World writes. One app, Covid Resources, curates a bunch of information about who might provide antiviral drugs, oxygen and food and have beds available.
What’s new from Apple: The company is starting a subscription option for podcasts and revealing an updated line of iPad and Mac along with new gadgets to track lost items like keys. My colleague Jack Nicas explained why Apple is increasingly in conflict with smaller companies, including charging fees and the privacy changes they are imposing on apps. use.
Please Happy birthday to Filbert, a beaver at the Oregon Zoo. The Zoo called him “branch manager of the year”. Understood? UNDERSTOOD?
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