Big tech

The Uber scandal highlights big tech’s big failure

A few years ago the Conservatives were excited about the march of the tech giants. Uber was offering an alternative to black cabs at a far lower cost, and Airbnb enabled homeowners to rent out a spare room to tourists at a fraction of the rate charged by hotels. Politicians were no longer dependent on traditional media but could reach the public via social networks, and there seemed to be an explosion of entrepreneurs, empowered by the new tech, taking on vested interests. The Tories intended to be part of this revolution. Their enthusiasm for people power was not to last. The government now plans to give regional mayors the

Why are progressives scared of Elon Musk?

Billionaire edgelord Elon Musk has just given progressives another reason to dread his ongoing attempt to buy Twitter. The founder of Tesla and SpaceX has confirmed that, should he succeed in acquiring the social media site, he would rescind the ban on Donald Trump’s account. Musk told the FT’s Future of the Car conference he would ‘reverse the permaban’ because it was ‘a morally bad decision and foolish in the extreme’. Twitter had managed to ‘amplify (Trump’s voice) among the right’, which was ‘morally wrong and flat-out stupid’. The culprit, Musk said, was the company’s ‘strong left bias’, adding: ‘Twitter needs to be much more even-handed.’ It’s important to remember

Boris is about to give Silicon Valley censors more power than ever

Four years in the making, the Online Safety Bill has now been sent to senior ministers for review — a process that allows them to protest, to shout if anything obvious that has been missed. In this case, the process is invaluable because something huge has been missed. The Bill, if passed, would empower the Silicon Valley firms it’s designed to suborn. It would formalise and usher in a new era of censorship of UK news — run from San Francisco. This Bill would backfire in a way that its Tory advocates have so far proven unable to understand let alone address. That’s why it needs to be halted, and a rethink

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter ban is nothing to celebrate

Marjorie Taylor Greene is nuttier than M&M World. Not your garden-variety conservative, or even a conservative at all, but a conspiracy theorist who rode these febrile times into a seat in Congress. She describes American Airlines Flight 77 as ‘the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon’ on 9/11, remarking that ‘it’s odd there’s never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon’. She suspects the 2018 California wildfires were started by a Rothschild-funded ‘laser beam or light beam coming down to Earth’ in order to help Democrats build a high-speed rail project. Her Facebook account has liked a post proposing ‘a bullet to the head’ for Nancy Pelosi.

Is Twitter about to step up its censorship?

Farewell then @jack. Jack Dorsey’s departure from Twitter on Monday came as no surprise given that the firm Elliott Management, one of Twitter’s activist investors, almost ousted him last year. Only the coronavirus may have prolonged the inevitable. Twitter’s stock keeps dropping. It may not reach the revenue and daily user projections for 2023 that it set last February. It also has the smallest ‘Big Tech’ user base, behind Facebook, YouTube and TikTok. The prevailing theory is that Dorsey’s departure involves Elliott Management, which controls two board seats and over $1 billion in stock shares, and which flexed enough muscle to boot Dorsey out. Elliott executives seemed dubious of Dorsey’s

Frances Haugen: a very convenient whistleblower

Facebook wants to move its business model towards the metaverse, that virtual future in which we will all hang out online through headsets and pretend it isn’t weird. The trouble is, we already appear to live in an alternate reality created by communications specialists with highly political agendas. Just look at the clearly PR-orchestrated Online Safety vs Facebook story which the media is playing out before our non-digital eyes. This week’s protagonist is Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee who appeared yesterday in parliament to give evidence to MPs scrutinising the Online Harms Bill. That is the bill through which the government says it intends to regulate social media companies to

Dave Eggers cancels Amazon

Selling books through Amazon is now part and parcel of a working author’s life. It would be a brave writer who decided to refuse to allow their work to be sold through earth’s biggest retailer. But that is exactly what Dave Eggers has done with his new book, The Every, which he has decreed can only be purchased from independent bookstores. Sorry, Jeff Bezos; this one’s not for you. It is hard to dismiss his decision to eschew Amazon as simply a quixotic act of rebellion by a washed-up has been Eggers has form in this regard. His 2013 satire The Circle took aim at a monolithic social media and tech

I miss life before Big Tech

Do any of you remember the time when everything took place on the terraces and in outdoor cafés? Before everyone retreated into laptops and mobile telephones and Twitter? When the streets thrummed with possibility and the potential for new encounters was everywhere? Well, that’s all gone now, thanks to some pretty ugly-looking fellows with names such as Dorsey and Zuckerberg. But we’re the ones who adopted their useless inventions and live by them as if they were the Sermon on the Mount. The social consequences have been devastating — the young make noises instead of articulating speech — and had Cassandra been around 20 or so years ago she would

The techniques of totalitarianism are still fully in play today

How to Become a Tyrant (Netflix) is ideal history TV for Generation No Attention Span. Presented in six bite-sized chunks by Peter Dinklage, aka the ‘Imp’ Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones, it tells you most of the things you need to know about Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Gaddafi, Kim Il-Sung, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein, without obliging you to think or grapple with any tedious detail. Instead of examining the dictators individually, it explores their careers thematically, looking for the ingredients they have in common. It’s split into half-hour episodes — ‘Seize Power’, ‘Crush Your Rivals’, ‘Reign Through Terror’, ‘Control the Truth’, ‘Create a New Society’, ‘Rule Forever’ — which

Big Tech is turning into Big Brother

The Big Tech social media giants are having to rethink their policy of censoring anybody who suggests that Covid originated from a lab near Wuhan, rather than through some local chowing down on sweet and sour pangolin testicles. This is because it now seems quite possible, if not probable, that the virus was kindly bestowed upon us by Chinese scientists. I don’t know either way, but I would suggest that a suspicion that the virus was man-made, given the proximity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, scarcely qualifies as a lunatic conspiracy theory to be banned from public utterance. But that’s what the Big Tech companies decided — almost certainly

Apple’s cowardly surrender to the mob

A few weeks ago, more than 2,000 employees of Apple Inc. signed a petition that led to the sacking of a clever and capable tech engineer, Antonio García Martínez. García Martínez was fired for sexism — not because he behaved badly towards any women, but because of a passage in a book he wrote five years ago. The book was Chaos Monkeys, an exposé of the Silicon Valley scene, and here’s the offending sentence: ‘Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit… but the reality is, come the epidemic plague or a foreign invasion, they’d

The disconnect of Davos Man

You may have missed Ursula von der Leyen’s big speech at Davos last week. Most people did. Perhaps because Davos was a more low-key affair than normal this year. Ordinarily the annual summit of the World Economic Forum allows various world leaders to jet into the Swiss Alps in order to lecture the rest of us on the virtues of zero carbon. But this year the head of the Forum — Klaus Schwab — greeted his guests virtually and alone. Welcoming the President of the European Commission down the line, the two reminisced about last year’s summit and such pleasures as being lectured by Greta Thunberg. Although they tried to

Trump’s social media ban creates a host of problems for Big Tech

Facebook and Twitter’s decision to suspend Donald Trump is, legally speaking, fairly clear-cut. Both are private companies which set the rules on who is – and isn’t – allowed to use their sites. Even if you’re the leader of the free world you have no automatic right to a Twitter account. The same logic applies to Parler – the self-described ‘unbiased’ social media platform – which has been booted off Google’s app store over its refusal to remove ‘egregious content’. As with Facebook and Twitter, Google Play is perfectly within its rights to select what apps it will and will not host. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be serious consequences that arise from these decisions. Frustrations from

The cultural elite has a new enemy

New York Election night parties are usually dreadful affairs, with the idiot box blaring and hysterical listeners screaming out the latest info. American TV pundits are smug trained seals, over made-up and blow-dried, and they all sound the same with their rehearsed stentorian voices. Brian Williams, or the ‘hero of Iraq’ as I call him after he was caught lying about a rocket attack on the chopper he was riding — he was safely on the ground and trembling — sounded sombre announcing that South Dakota had been called for the Donald. These so-called anchors no longer even pretend to be objective, and they had long faces when the predicted