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How Big Tech Companies are challenging Governments around the world? How to regulate Tech Firms?

How Big Tech Companies are challenging Governments around the world? How to regulate Tech Firms?

Relevance:

  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Other Aspects of Governance || Corporate Governance

Why in the news?

Big Tech firms now hold more influence than most sovereign governments. It’s time to submit them to democratic control before their influence erodes democracy.

Introduction:

  • Big Tech monopolies serve as the infrastructural heart of an ever-expanding tech cosmos, serving as mandatory digital interfaces for social interaction — conquering professional life and private consumption while monopolizing information and communication flows.
  • While there are valid grounds for Big Tech intervening to prevent impending political violence, these occurrences highlight the firms’ growing uncontrolled influence over social life.

Technology and its impacts:

  • Geopolitical Influence of Technology Companies:
    • The sailboat, gun powder, steam engine, internal-combustion engine, nuclear power, contemporary communications and information technologies, and other breakthroughs transformed their eras and changed the fortunes of nations.
    • The corporations at the center of this transformation are quickly transforming into strong geopolitical players who frequently question authority, sovereignty, and the rule of law, and the capacity of governments.
    • No industry more globalized than the technology industry. Expanding global presence and a growing list of corporate interests that transcend national boundaries and that directly influence, and are influenced by, geopolitical events.
    • The world’s largest technology companies are amassing a level of wealth, influence, international presence, and transnational interests that was previously only enjoyed by states.
    • Companies are more than just players in the game of global politics, they are often the arena itself.
  • Impact on market:
    • It is now a full package market of money making, bringing more job opportunities but also there are some fraudulent happenings in big tech companies, many a time companies get in loan trap like survival issues due to competition in market E.g, Satyam group and Royal bank of Scotland.
  • Political power these big tech held:
    • Without being part of any political party these big tech brands play a very important role in image polishing or destroying and branding any party or leader, social media platforms are the main source of technological engagement among masses, branding any personality in positive way or negative play a very important role. Twitter recently blocked the account of Former IT minister Ravi Sharkar prashad and brought out many controversies.
  • Cultural impact:
    • The influence these platforms wield on their users, as well as whether or not that authority is lawful, should be used to assess their cultural power.
    • By evaluating the habits of mind that these platforms nurture in its users, as well as the consequences those habits of mind have had on civic and cultural life, the cultural strength of these platforms may be determined.

Why are big techs so powerful in the present time?

  • The IT sector is problematic in its own right: there is a lack of adequate platform choice; there are power imbalances between corporations and consumers; and Big Tech is gathering data on people and utilizing it for its own goals, exacerbating the gap. Furthermore, the business has been wildly uneven in determining what speech is permitted and what should be prohibited.
  • Big tech,” in part, because of a fear of state overreach, the constitutional and cultural commitment to free speech, and a reluctance to constrain the capacity of dynamic companies to innovate.
  • Free speech and hate speech has been used as a propaganda on of the big tech, fake news is being spread on these big tech is among one of the most serious problem
  • Big tech almost has all the data access and they are used in a manipulative way.
  • Google was found guilty of abusing its dominating position in the mobile Android market by putting unreasonable requirements on device manufacturers to prohibit them from using alternative operating systems in 2019.
  • Google has also been accused of using an exorbitant and unjust commission structure for apps on its Play Store.

 

Big Tech Firms Regulation:

The new News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code introduced in Australia. The code aims to compel large internet companies like Facebook and Google to compensate local media outlets and publishers for links to their material in news feeds and search results.

Regulating these platforms, on the other hand, has its own set of concerns, such as the impact on free speech, the impediment to their position as enablers and advocates for the voiceless, and so on.

Why does online content need to be regulated?

  • Surveillance Capitalism: Big Tech companies gather data on individuals and use that data to tailor ads to their business interests.
  • Monopolizing the Internet: Today’s Big Tech businesses are using their capital base to engage in predatory pricing and drive out rivals by leveraging their capital base. They’re building hurdles to entry by refusing to interconnect and collaborate with competitors.
  • Defending the Public Interest: States are also the defenders of the public interest. Governments are chosen in democratic countries to represent the will of the people. So, if a difficult decision must be made between restricting or allowing speech, it seems only reasonable to resort to the public guardian.
  • Controlling Moral Panic: Big Tech platforms are being used to propagate misinformation and promote threats such as political polarization, hate speech, sexist abuse, and terrorist propaganda – everything that causes moral panic.

Issues associated with regulation of online content:

  • Compelled Speech vs. Free Speech: In an effort to maintain control over these platforms, international human rights rules for freedom of expression and opinion are occasionally violated.
  • Self-Regulation: Supporters of Big Tech argue that as corporations become more aware of the dangers of letting objectionable information on their networks, they will surely find it in their best interests to delete such content ahead of time.
  • Voice of the Voiceless: It’s crucial to note that topics like #BlackLivesMatter, #LivingWhileBack, and #MeToo only became a public conversation due to social
  • Enabler’s Role: Big Tech companies provide enormous value to small publishers and self-funded entrepreneurs.

The future of big tech firm:

  • With the increasing plaltformization of capitalism, big Tech companies have also built up substantial power over the economy and society, including infrastructural power vis-à-vis sovereign states.
  • Big Techs, deepening of tech-driven governance requires the increasing rollback of liberal protections by design.
  • The disruptive potential of Big Tech is also visible in existing multilateral and bilateral frameworks for trade and investment.
  • Big Tech is at odds with the existing cross-border allocation of tax rights, and as a result our Big Techs largely live tax-free lives in offshore wonderland.
  • The speed at which the sector has developed into a focal point on the stock market, in political communication, in geopolitics, and in daily life sharply contrasts with the much slower pace at which civil society and decision-making bodies have been able to grasp the transformative nature of these firms. Big Tech’s opacity has so far provided it with an advantage and left regulators to play catch-up.

Way forward:

  • Lawmakers worldwide have to rein in the mounting power of Big Tech, before Big Tech absorbs the power of democratically-elected governments. Big Tech companies have become highly-financialised cash machines for their shareholders and executives.
  • Big tech contemplate the ways in which consumers or users might reclaim ownership over data as citizens, ideally short-circuiting the core operating logics of surveillance capitalism:
    • One way might be to embrace ‘open source’ solutions to circumvent Big Tech enclosure;
    • Another way is to take the infrastructural core of Big Tech into public hands altogether, recognising them for the crucial public utilities they are.
  • Prioritizing Personal Data Regulation: At a time when data is the new gold standard, regulating how digital firms exploit customers’ personal data to gain a competitive advantage should be a top priority.
  • Ensure users’ right to privacy: Governments all over the globe have enacted strict regulations mandating tech businesses to follow some fundamental and critical data security and privacy safeguards.

Mains oriented question:

The new dynamic of negotiating power between State and Big Tech corporations must be recognized in the current digital geopolitical environment. Discuss. (200 words)