Selected links to materials critiquing the morally dubious and exploitative nature of the business models of “online” software companies from places like Silicon Valley, as well as a few relevant quotes. While the latest buzz in the mass media is about privacy, that is really only one relatively small part of a larger set of issues about exploitative conduct.
“They Didn’t Even Need to Hack Facebook”
“Facebook’s Latest Data Breach Reveals Silicon Valley’s Fortunes Are Built on Pilfering Privacy” (see also “Facebook Must Face Class Action Over Facial Recognition, Judge Rules” and “74 Percent of Facebook Users Don’t Realize the Site Collects Their Interests to Target Ads, Pew Survey Says”)
“The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie”
“No, Social Media Isn’t Destroying Civilization”
“‘The Gig Economy’ Is the New Term for Serfdom”
“Cambridge Analytica Didn’t Abuse the Happiness Industry – It Was Used Exactly How It Was Intended to Be” (and “Assange Works for the People – Now We Need to Save Him”)
“What Would Marx Have Said About Facebook and Cambridge Analytica?” and Anti-Social Media: The Impact on Journalism and Society
“Can We Be Saved From Facebook?” (note the casual deployment of “horseshoe theory” and “cognitivism”/”scientism” here)
“Imagine Having So Much Money You Can Spend It on Instagram ‘Influencers’”
“Addiction and Microtargeting: How ‘Social’ Networks Expose us to Manipulation” and “The Binge Breaker” and Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked and “Advertising and Academia Are Controlling Our Thoughts. Didn’t You Know?”
“Goodbye Facebook, and Screw You Too”
“Facebook CEO Presents Plans for Mass Censorship at Senate Hearing”
“F-Word: What if Ida B. Wells Depended on Facebook?”
“Surveillance Capitalism: Monopoly-Finance Capital, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the Digital Age”
“How Surveillance Capitalism Became the Pre-eminent Business Model of Silicon Valley”
“Police Surveilled George Floyd Protests With Help From Twitter-Affiliated Startup Dataminr”
“Personal Data – The Skyscraper of Data You Knew Nothing About”
“Cookie Monster: the Nuts and Bolts of Online Tracking”
“The Self-Serving Myths of Silicon Valley”
“The Internal Emails Big Tech Executives Never Wanted You to See”
“For Owners of Amazon’s Ring Security Cameras, Strangers May Have Been Watching Too”
“USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech”
“Delete Your Account: On the Theory of Platform Capitalism”
Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet
“Google Tracks Your Movements, Like It or Not”
“Google and Apple’s Systems to Track you in Person: What the Media Isn’t Telling You”
“Cloud Computing Is a Trap, Warns GNU Founder Richard Stallman”
“The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism”
“The Massive Monopolies of Google, Facebook and Amazon, and Their Role in Destroying Privacy, Producing Inequality and Undermining Democracy”
Jodi Dean, “Communicative Capitalism and Class Struggle”:
“In communicative capitalism, capitalist productivity derives from its expropriation and exploitation of communicative processes.
“If we are honest, we have to admit that there is actually no such thing as social media. Digital media is class media. Networked communication does not eliminate hierarchy, as we believed, in entrenches it as it uses our own choices against us.
“Dispossession, rather than happening all at once, is an ongoing process. No one will deny the ongoingness of data dispossession. Sometimes it is blatant: the announcement that our call will be monitored for quality assurance, the injunctions to approve Apple’s privacy changes again or the necessity of renewing passwords and credit card information. Sometimes the ongoingness is more subtle; in maps, GPS signals, video surveillance, and the RFID tags on and in items we purchase. And sometimes the ongoingness is completely beyond our grasp, as when datasets are combined and mined so as to give states and corporations actionable data for producing products, patterns, and policies based on knowing things about our interrelations one to another that we do not know ourselves. Here the currents of lives as they are lived are frozen into infinitely separable, countable, and combinatory data-points.
“Approached in terms of class struggle, big data looks like further escalation of capital’s war against labor.”
Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates:
“[Adapting a statement of Lenin regarding central banks,] can we also say that ‘without the World Wide Web socialism would be impossible . . . . Our task is here merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more democratic, even more comprehensive?” (p. 293)
“However, does capitalism really provide the ‘natural’ frame of relations of production for the digital universe? Is there not also, in the World Wide Web, an explosive potential for capitalism itself? Is not the lesson of the Microsoft monopoly precisely the Leninist one: instead of fighting this monopoly through the state apparatus (remember the court-ordered splitting up of the Microsoft Corporation), would it not be more ‘logical’ simply to nationalize it, making it freely accessible? So today, I am thus tempted to paraphrase Lenin’s well-known slogan ‘Socialism = electrification + the power of the soviets’: ‘Socialism = free access to the Internet + the power of the soviets.’ (The second element is crucial, since it specifies the only social organization within which the Internet can realize its liberating potential; without it, we would have a new version of crude technological determinism.” (p. 294).
See also “We Need to Nationalise Google, Facebook and Amazon. Here’s Why” and The Communist Manifesto (“6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.”)
For more watered-down, less practical alternatives to nationalization, see “Facebook: A Cooperative Transformation” and “Socialized Media” and “To Break Google’s Monopoly on Search, Make Its Index Public”