The following is an excerpt of an article by Peter Tutykhin. This features in our fifth print issue, available now.
Find out how to get your own copy of the issue here.
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Like it or not, the internet is here to change the world. As of 2018, more than half of the world’s population is now connected to the web. The rise in global connectivity over the past fifteen years has been remarkable. In 2005, only 16 per cent had access. In 2010, about 30 per cent. It is the technological revolution of our lifetime, and its pace has far eclipsed any such revolution which came before. It has changed the way we conduct commerce, communicate with friends, consume media and participate in politics.
Facebook and Google-owned sites, including YouTube and Instagram, now make up over 70 per cent of all internet traffic. Facebook itself has 2.4 billion monthly active users. Google holds a nearly 90 per cent share of the search engine market. It’s internet browser, Chrome, maintains over 60 per cent market share, and Google’s monopoly will only grow as Microsoft rebuilds its own Edge browser on the Chromium engine. Amazon, for its part, is fast building a monopoly over e-commerce, having already captured about 50 per cent of the US market.
Google may be perfectly serviceable as a search engine, Facebook lets you keep up to date with friends and Amazon delivers packages with ungodly urgency. Yet while few of us were paying attention, three companies which did not even exist twenty-five years ago have amassed a spectacular degree of power over our lives, and it has happened so quickly that government bodies put in place to regulate them have failed to catch up.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it should be a matter of grave concern that some of our most important public forums and marketplaces are now controlled by unelected corporate dictatorships. Most of us have no idea as to what goes on inside their boardrooms. We have no input into nor ability to scrutinise their decision-making processes.
For too long, we have allowed ourselves to believe that corporate power is nowhere near as dangerous to our fundamental rights and liberties as state power, and is less worthy of critique and safeguards.
Yet consider, as one example, the fact that a dozen people sitting in a meeting somewhere in San Jose, whose names we probably don’t know and who none of us ever voted for, can successfully shut down any major newspaper from Los Angeles to Colchester, cripple any business and destroy any political campaign. And all of that can be achieved not with steel toe boots and rubber truncheons but a few lines of code.
These are hardly theoretical probems.
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Read the rest of this article in the print issue, information on which can be found HERE.
Photo by Andrew_Writer on Flickr.