November 24, 2020

Big Tech’s Professional Opponents Strike at Google

Institutions like the Ford Foundation are also funding civil society groups and research efforts to study tech’s harms. And human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Anti-Defamation League have devoted more resources to tech-accountability issues.

“If you compare today to five years ago, there is a much different awareness among policymakers and the public,” said Vera Franz, deputy director of the Open Society Foundations, an organization backed by Mr. Soros that has spent $24 million this year on groups focused on privacy, online discrimination and other tech topics. “The key question is how to translate that awareness to real change and real accountability.”

The anti-tech movement’s first signs of success came in the European Union about a decade ago when some of Google’s rivals banded together to persuade regulators to investigate the company for antitrust violations. The resulting cases cost Google more than $9 billion in fines.

In 2016, the opponents scored another victory when the European Union passed a landmark data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, which many lawyers and activists now use against the tech companies.

In the United States, few were alarmed by tech’s power until the 2016 presidential election, when Russia used social media to spread disinformation and sow political discord. In 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed Facebook’s weak privacy safeguards and added to the momentum.

Since then, the influence of industry critics has swelled. Antitrust lawyers and economists focused on tech accountability are in demand at law firms and think tanks. Civil society groups eager to investigate the industry are hiring data scientists and researchers. Universities are adding programs looking at tech’s harm.

Bookstores are also stocking titles like “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” by the Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff, about how companies like Facebook and Google try to predict and control human behavior. Netflix films like “The Social Dilemma,” which is critical of social media, have become surprise hits.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/technology/big-tech-professional-opponents.html

Speak Your Mind