Op-Ed: The Big Tech Redemption Tour

Coachella may be cancelled but you can still catch the Big Tech Redemption Tour: 2020

Silicon Valley sweethearts like Google, Facebook and Amazon have been handed a golden ticket to crush their business competition, extinguish the flames of regulation that licked ever closer, and re-embed themselves in every the hearts and minds of every American.
As small-medium businesses lay off thousands of employees, startups face growing uncertainty, and individuals wonder how they are going to put food on the table, Big Tech is consolidating power and driving profits.
“There are really two Americas right now,” Scott Galloway, author of The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google told WaPo this week: “There is Big Tech and there is everyone else. They can do what very few companies can do, which is play offense in the middle of a pandemic.”

While catastrophic for many, the pandemic has been merciful to Big Tech. Facing techlash just months ago, their fortunes are conveniently improving – anti-trust reviews have been stalled, and tech lobbyists are in overdrive. Google, Facebook and Twitter are fighting to sway the California Attorney General in to delaying the California Consumer Privacy Act, meanwhile “others representing companies such as Amazon,” said the NYTimes, “have asked for regulatory changes to benefit their businesses where demand is now soaring because of the outbreak…” Uber, for example, “has asked lawmakers to shield it from lawsuits over how its drivers are classified if it provides the drivers with medical supplies or compensation during the pandemic.” That sounds a little like holding medical supplies ransom in return for legal immunity during a viral pandemic? Classy!

In spite of this, the pandemic seems to have resulted in a rehabilitation of their public image, driving increased loyalty to these big tech conglomerates, and decreased appetite for them to be broken up or regulated. Kara Swisher named their turnaround a ‘Redemption Tour’ on a Wing virtual event this week.

As consumers, we both loathe the dystopian hellscape they are molding, and are a little bit thankful for it. We enjoy the connection and #allinthistogether camaraderie offered by Zoom, in spite of hearing months ago that the platform was “the Netflix of child pornography”. We refresh our Amazon Prime carts *praying* for a coveted delivery slot, whilst knowing that those working for the conglomerate have no health insurance and though widely deemed ‘essential’, are being sacrificed on the altar of corporate shareholder profit.

Of course, it’s not really surprising that Big Tech titans are using a deadly pandemic to worm their way off our collective Shi*t-List. These are the same organizations who claim their hands are tied as child sexual abuse images and online exploitation surge, and predators grow bolder in their ability to use major platforms to draw and hold audiences. Child abusers have long run rampant as tech companies look the other way. Predators have long been weaponizing apps as companies claim they have no obligation to do anything about it. Search engines continue to destroy the lives of revenge porn victims. Technology companies walk through fire thanks to the CDA230.
The government seems to have back-tracked, begging Big Tech to help with contact tracing (because what could possibly go wrong with Facebook handing all our private data to the Trump administration??!) and praising bail-out funds like Facebook’s “grant” program. As Carrie noted on Twitter, “These aren’t grants. They’re purchase agreements for your “services.” In this case, it’s your data. Which Facebook says it now owns.” Naturally, our benevolent overlords need to know everything about you: race, gender, sexual orientation, social media accounts, everything about your biz including your biz plan, pitch deck, employment history, tax ID info account. You must allow them to collect, use or share your personal information, and give them the right to change all terms of your agreement and privacy policy at any time, and to use your info ‘for other purposes.’ As she explained, “The data FB is acquiring through this program is a steal for them! It’s worth billions and they only are paying $100m.” How, uhh, generous.

 “Good job @Facebook for exploiting Corona and the vulnerability of small businesses for your own f*cking profit.” Carrie concluded, “Sadly, many small businesses are in dire straits and reasonably sacrifice privacy to keep their staff employed and families fed.” Now more than ever, when it comes to Big Tech we’re not #allinthistogether. In the ‘Other America’ power is being consolidated into the hands of a few untouchables. And unless we take action, it’s starting to feel worryingly likely that when our doors open back up, Big Tech will be the only ones left standing.


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