It’s a strange day when you agree with the arch-nemesis of humanity, but then again, days have been strange in the world for some time….
Political conservatives have long complained about the double-standard that Facebook, Twitter & Google gives them. Their accounts shut down or suspended for minor offenses or none at all, while leftists roam free threatening anyone they wish, saying anything they want, and posting whatever they want, no matter how pornographic or violent.
Now they find themselves with the least likely ally imaginable, and one has to wonder what he’s got up his sleeve.
Facebook and Google have become “obstacles to innovation” and are a “menace” to society whose “days are numbered”, said billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment,” said the Hungarian-American businessman, according to a transcript of his speech.
“This is particularly nefarious because social media companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. This has far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of elections.”
In addition to skewing democracy, social media companies “deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes” and “deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide”. The latter, he said, “can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents”.
“The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called ‘the freedom of mind’. There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences.”
Soros warned of an “even more alarming prospect” on the horizon if data-rich internet companies such as Facebook and Google paired their corporate surveillance systems with state-sponsored surveillance – a trend that’s already emerging in places such as the Philippines.
“This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined,” he said.
The companies, which he described as “ever more powerful monopolies” are unlikely to change their behaviour without regulation, The Guardian reports.
“The internet monopolies have neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions. That turns them into a menace and it falls to the regulatory authorities to protect society against them,” he said.
Soros said Davos was a good place to announce: “Their days are numbered.”
He also echoed the words of world wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee when he said the tech giants had become “obstacles to innovation” that need to be regulated as public utilities “aimed at preserving competition, innovation and fair and open universal access”.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
January 28th, 2018