We are seeing more and more push back on the big technology companies in the past year or so and it seems to be growing. I think it is well deserved. I am a fan a capitalism, but it seems companies like Facebook and Google seem to have grown a bit out of control and unchecked. I get it, Facebook is the greatest advertising machine ever invented and has a couple of billion users to work with. Unlimited computer power with algorithms, behavioral prediction, ect or what I’ll call, artificial intelligence, combined with a smart phone in every pocket or a computer in every home has made targeting ads to each one of us possible. No surprise Facebook and Google have relatively quickly grown into two of the largest companies in the world. It is nirvana for advertisers! Facebook started and still is a way to connect us all and share pictures and communicate with friends, family and beyond, but people have figured out how to use data to get around civil liberties, impact elections, allow hate groups to spread messages and other important unintended consequences. Google is worth looking at too as it is probably worth seeing if we all agree that it is okay to scan, keep, buy, sell all our emails, browsing history, location, banking, health data, ect.
I am not saying that these are bad tools, just these tools and they way they regularly manipulate us, as consumers (likes, dings, customized ads, ect), are so much more powerful than the “regular” manipulation TV and newspapers advertisers use. It is hard to say these guys are not media companies and I know free speech arguments make the debate challenging, but if they were media companies there would be held to a higher standard and held accountable. Far from it right now. These tools are too powerful to have their leaders say “we are not responsible for content on our platforms”. Could a network get away with that?
Social media for all its good has an ugly side and may actually be creating less connection and more isolation in addition to some real harm. Of course, some of that is on us, but it seems AI 1.0 has gotten a bit out of control and with more powerful AI coming, it might be best to learn some lessons from this one.