Amid its rising energy, massive tech confronts requires regulation and accountability
When a baseball player moves up from the small leagues and earns a place at a large club, it is called “going to the show” and is a reason to celebrate. Tech’s turn in the batter’s box for “The Show” wasn’t that much fun.
A number of tech companies that started out as startups with innovative ideas have grown into global powerhouses – and many are now learning that life in key business areas can be difficult.
This was the case, for example, with Twitter Inc., which faced a decision in January to impose a permanent ban on its microblogging site on the most powerful leader in the free world. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who left the company for some time and then returned in 2017, struggled with the decision earlier this year after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“I wanted to remove Trump personally, I found him very hurtful and harmful,” said Stone during an interview at the collision conference on Thursday. “Just take the opinion out and consider it a business decision. For every person who is really terrible on Twitter, there are a million people who don’t want to join. “
Ultimately, Twitter put President Trump in a permanent ban. The move brought into focus the power that social media platforms now had to control public discourse.
“The CEO of a company in San Francisco can reassure the president of the United States,” noted Stone. “It’s had a huge impact and it’s scary. It’s a bit scary to know that a person’s decision has so much power. “
Combating Misinformation and Security
The power of technology, and the tough demands it brings, were a clear topic during the three-day virtual collision event this month as executives, business owners, elected officials and even Hollywood celebrities weighed on the effects and drawbacks of the technology’s growing influence.
Not long after Stone’s appearance, Chelsea Clinton, vice chairman of the Clinton Foundation, provided another example of the dilemmas that companies face in the social media arena. The former first daughter has been outspoken in recent weeks about overcoming vaccination hesitation in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, making it clear that misinformation on social media platforms was a significant part of the problem.
“We know deplatforming works,” said Clinton. “We know that the level of hatred fell quantifiable when Donald Trump’s account was removed. We have to put pressure on social media platforms to eliminate misinformation. “
The tough demands of tech extend to the security arena as well. The massive breach of SolarWinds, the recently discovered vulnerabilities on the Microsoft Exchange platform, and the escalation of ransomware attacks have had an impact on privacy and global business in the past few weeks.
An ongoing drive from manufacturers to launch an avalanche of internet-connected products with little or no built-in security has set alarm bells off and sparked a derisive Twitter feed with over 400,000 followers. Forescout Research Labs, in collaboration with JSOF Research, recently documented new security vulnerabilities that may affect more than 100 million corporate and consumer devices.
“We sell all of these devices that are plugged into the network and never patched,” said Alex Stamos, director of Stanford Internet Observatory and former security chief of Facebook Inc. “Consumers can start to push back.” by not buying stupid things. We need a slogan: “Make devices stupid again.”
Asks for regulation
Amid social media control, misinformation, and cybersecurity issues, speculation is growing that the tech industry will inevitably be more regulated.
The Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, and the U.S. Department of Justice took similar action against Google LLC in 2020 as a growing number of elected officials called for regulation of the entire tech industry. A number of states took action as early as 2021, including introducing a digital advertising tax in Maryland and trying by North Dakota, Apple Inc. and Google to block a percentage of app sales.
“It’s not just about size, it’s also about what you do with your size,” said US Congresswoman Katie Porter. “It’s like cola versus a soda machine trying to keep up. There is no longer a competitor with the resources to take over Google. “
Concerns about the overwhelming impact of technology have been offset to some extent by the sincere belief of many industry leaders that innovations will continue at breakneck speed and have the power to create a bright future. Evidence of this can be found in the decision by Uber Technologies Inc. to offer transit agencies the software with which the hail platform is operated.
Uber launched its first transit contract last year and recently announced the expansion of its SaaS business to agencies in Colorado, Maryland and California.
“We see it as a growing part of our business, but it’s still in its early stages,” said Sundeep Jain, senior vice president and chief product officer at Uber. “We see ourselves as a large company that supports local trade and the local economy.”
An open source ethos
During a presentation in 2019, MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte lamented the change he saw in Silicon Valley as he transitioned from an invention culture to a culture where big tech companies today stop sharing ideas and knowing little and contribute science.
In his appearance during the collision on Tuesday, IBM Corp. President Jim Whitehurst questioned Negroponte’s assessment. From his perspective as the former head of Red Hat Inc., Whitehurst expressed the belief that the ethos of code sharing by the open source movement is an innovative approach that promotes more openness in Silicon Valley, not less.
If Whitehurst is right, this approach could transform the culture of dominance and possibly the public perception of the technology industry.
“We’re seeing more technology be open source first, and that’s a healthy thing,” said Whitehurst. “You take five good ideas and you come up with a great idea. You have to believe in the value associated with a bigger cake and your slice will be big enough. “
Image: Pixabay Commons
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