Should we focus our attention on the tech industry rather than the overall society?

I share some of the concerns expressed here:, especially the one about polarization of modern society and the spread of false facts. But I am not sure why this Center believes that Facebook and Google are the root of these problems.

Societies have been polarized far worse than what we see today, to the point of families and neighbors killing each other, over ideology, religion, ethnicity, allegiances, etc. False facts have been around as long as there have been newspapers; in fact, even longer, as the word-of-mouth rumors spread almost as easily.

I can relate to the addiction argument a little more. But if Facebook and Youtube weren’t not around, people would just spend the extra time watching TV or playing games. In my (perhaps naive) opinion, TV is an even more stupefying experience than YT/FB because viewers have even less control over the content and the content is even less democratically created.

The critique of Instagram as creating the “picture perfect” benchmark for life also makes sense. But again, I wonder if it’s that different from watching movies with gorgeous actors and actresses wearing amazing clothes living the lives of adventure and luxury? People always feel excited about that, and with some common sense they can still be productive and happy in their normal life.

So I guess I agree with many points made here, but I am not convinced that the technology industry is any different from the TV, movies, books, politics, billboard and magazine advertising, and other very traditional parts of our society. I would appreciate a clear argument about why we should focus our attention on the tech industry rather than the overall society. And most importantly, I am worried that any reduction in the influence of the tech firms would make things even worse by bringing back the influence of far more centralized, undemocratic, and (in many countries) corrupt types of media of the past century.


Why focus on Facebook (Insta), Google, Twitter, et all > over traditional media (TV, movies, newspaper, magazines)?

There are already watchdog groups associated with advertising, and more importantly, ads = bad is generally understood (the public has had 100+ years to come around to this realization).

What’s new is that tech (and Silicon Valley in general) is finally seeing its myth of altruism and impartiality busted, and focusing on their unforeseen (until now) techniques lets people know the smartphone in their pocket isn’t impartial, it’s manipulative.

So the course here isn’t EITHER, it’s BOTH: Manipulation is everywhere, and BigTech is even MORE insidious because it’s personal.

Which is why FB/GOOG/et al. are MORE dangerous than the prior media you mention. This new manipulation is targeted, specific, and tailored to our habits. This is — crude analogy — Minority Report’s talking billboards come to life. So the dire circumstances we as a society find ourselves in are advertising/TV/movies PLUS all-knowing/all-seeing tech.

Hence the focus on BigTech and not, as you say, society at large.

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Ah that makes sense. In other words, you’re saying the problem isn’t that the tech firms are worse, but that people incorrectly thought that they are completely benign and let their guard down. In actual fact, the tech firms are driven by profit considerations in the same undesirable direction as regular companies. And with a more powerful toolkit at their disposal they, if anything, need even more supervision. Did I understand your point correctly?

I think this is a good point. Although I’m still worried that the strong emphasis on the tech industry will just tilt the power towards the old world businesses and politicians, who will simply proceed to do even worse abuses.

Still, very interesting, thanks for discussing this.

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I agree with the @mvx but I think there’s something important to ad. Google and facebook are much much faster and better at making things addictive and time consuming. I don’t think their motive is different or worse than mainstream TV or newspapers. The focus on google and Facebook is because their technology is so much more effective.

I guess if you are thinking in terms of attention theft or disinformation as a crime, then I would say google and facebook have unprecedented means and ability and opportunity compared to anything that’s come before. So therefore their motivation is more of a concern to me.

…and additionally they have enormous reach, which traditional parties didn’t have prior to their emergence :slight_smile:

But I agree with @mvx that there is a larger problem in society and tech is just a part of it. Our economic system for instance preaches unlimited growth, and putting anything in service of achieving that.

In nature there exists no system that facilitates unlimited growth. I just posted a link to another community member about Kate Raworth on the Donought Economy that explains this very well: (video is in English).

(Ms. Raworth is currently lecturing various political parties and governmental institutions in The Netherlands on alternative models of government)

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By his is very true but the difference is is that you can’t take your tv to the ball game, to a resturaunt, funerals, and to your classroom just to name a few. So the ease of use is one reason why we are so addicted to our devices. That quick response triggers a feel good part of the brain.