The year 2019 brought many new trends and innovations but it has also changed how general public treats technology and, specifically, the sector’s tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and Twitter. In the west general consensus now holds that these companies should be held accountable because of the numerous times they acted unethically in regard to users and either directly or indirectly caused damage to people in the form of low wages for contractor workers or by being responsible for data leaks and stolen client information (that is private).
Because Silicon Valley is a flagman that pioneers new inventions and because technologies it provided general population with made possible such things as Brexit in UK and Trump’s presidency in US, we are no longer naive about internet, apps, smartphones and certain technologies such as face recognition because we know that just as they can be put to good use, so their unethical use may result in serious wrongdoings.
Read on to find out exactly why and how big tech is to blame, why some candidates for the 2020 President Elections want to break up Google, how Facebook made Brexit and Trump possible, how Netflix ruins Hollywood, why the State of California enforces laws that may send Uber into bankruptcy, how Amazon killed retail in America, and why Twitter became megaphone for conservative white supremacists.
- Companies and Charges
- Lack of Regulation
- Problems, Problems, Problems
- Critical Points
- Ethical Software Development
Companies and Charges
- Amazon – Killed retail, making it near impossible for small retail business to operate profitably
- Facebook – helped targeting pro-Brexit and pro-Trump voters and is known as “the social network that everybody hates”
- Google – also allowed targeting pro-Brexit and pro-Trump voters, hijacking the election narrative, considered signing contracts with Pentagon until employees protested the decision, maintains monopoly on the apps in GooglePlay
- YouTube – intends to make content more addictive and presses creators on the platform
- Uber – exploits drivers and shows the downside of gig-economy, guilty in the increased traffic congestion and higher level of carbon emissions
- Netflix – focuses on subscribing more users instead of tending to the existing ones and cancels shows after 1-2 seasons, has an even stronger influence on the final product than producers and studios formerly had, kills talent and puts business first and foremost
- Twitter – failed to successfully and promptly address the issues of hate talk, racism, xenophobia and sexism etc present on its platform
Lack of Regulation
As the companies evolve and change, so does the nature of trade and commerce because big players create monopolies while laws simply lag behind unable to properly regulate what the legislature just doesn’t understand. Although Facebook was fined 5 billion dollars by Federal Trade Comission, this is probably not even its monthly revenue, which is why general public pushes for more regulations. And the companies react but many of them start a counteroffensive that they cover with little cosmetic changes on the paltforms.
For example, Uber and Google are strongly against their contractors forming a union because it would mean higher expenses for them while, for example, wide-scale adoption of self-driving vehicles or robotic warehouse workers is not close yet. Uber riders do not have a medical insurance and work for a wage that is lower than the legally allowed (≈$10). And even considering that, Uber loses money and might even go out of business in the future.
Internet became a place that doesn’t just optimize our communication but allows to spread hate, create monopolies and exploit gig workers. This is techlash as it is – the dark side of software innovations and its obvious negative influence on all aspects of our life.
But more regulations will come and, surprisingly, they are pioneered in Europe, not US or UK. European Union already started to press Google and Amazon in their antitrust investigations in order to disallow these companies to bend the laws and dictate their own economic rules. Facebook’s Libra is strongly opposed and even in America Twitter is criticized for being indirectly guilty in mass shootings that happened in El Paso and other US cities.
Problems, Problems, Problems
The introduction of GDPR marked a great advancement in the regulation of internet. Perhaps, we should all thank Edward Snowden who first revealed the possibilities of internet surveillance. Still, there’s no kind of GDPR in US where Silicon Valley tech giants tend to bend the laws to favor them. But general public opposes it strongly. This year we witnessed protests from Uber contractors and Amazon warehouse employees. Massive Google walkouts occur annually in regard to either potential Pentagon contracts (that clearly violates Google’s famous motto “don’t be evil”) or internal sexual harassment scandals.
Uber (as well as Lyft) is also to blame for increased traffic congestion and higher carbon emissions rate brought by it. This all raises a lot of questions, so public demands something to be done in regard to the frequent occurrences of data leaks and the invasion of privacy, pollution, low wages, etc.
Targeted ads made everybody hate Facebook because it was used extensively to promote Trump and Brexit, the two most disturbing and disrupting geopolitical challenges in the western hemisphere. Recent mass shootings in US attracted attention to overtly racist and xenophobic content distributed via the social media, especially Twitter that only now started to hide threads, trying to somehow address the problem of proper content moderation on the platform.
The topic is just too big to cover in one article but Amazon and Netflix destroy the industries they dominate since Amazon became “the everything store”, it is now a monopoly and everybody knows that monopolies are bad for business. And, even though AppleTV and Disney+ will compete with Netflix, this tech giant’s tendency to devalue creative input and disregard already existing subscribers for the benefit of attracting more and more new users indicates the prevalence of business objectives over content objectives in creative industry much like the issue with YouTube.
The issues that all companies pose can be divided into the following categories and in some way or another these problems were caused by many tech companies both small and big because they tend to copycat the behavior of lead players and employ their business models.
- Privacy violations
- Exploitation of gig-workers
- Spread of racism, xenophobia and sexism
- Deflation of creative work
Altogether they’re bad tendencies that are only getting as this becomes more and more relevant in the year 2019. Do we really hand out our future to companies that behave unethically and have no restraint when it comes to sucking money out of users in any way possible?
Ethical Software Development
What the public demands? It wants justice and the companies who’d like to survive must adapt accordingly. Yes, the greatest minds of our generation are thinking about how to make people click ads but that shouldn’t be so. From both a consumer’s and developer’s point of view things must change for the better or else they’re going to get ugly. Yes, Google had a design ethicist but he quit exactly because Google behaved unethically (developing software as a weapon? come on) and this beautiful post on Medium shows clearly how companies cut the corners when it comes to making you what they’d like you to do.
Our developers care about the outcomes of our work and we do business with no harm in mind. We do not yet have a design ethicist of our own but be sure that every member in our team understands what it is to see the end product from a user’s perspective. And that is the best way to guarantee that our software solutions are useful and peaceful. We understand that any violation of privacy is a violation of personal freedoms. And our basic human rights confirm that users have a liberty “to be forgotten” because your internet history belongs to you and no matter how valuable this information is for Amazon or Google, it cannot be used without your consent or against your or general public’s best interest.
GBKSOFT fully understands it and our internal processes disallow this to happen. That is why in our main office we encourage recycling and also do not make business with a country that our country’s at war with. Simply put, we have principles and let’s leave it at that. No matter what company you choose for your project, make sure that it has principles and acts in accordance with the universal human values.
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