It can be said that the DC-Big Tech relationship is in the midst of a modern reprisal of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein.”
DC is Doctor Victor Frankenstein. Big Tech companies are the monsters DC created – through proactive policy cronyism and malevolent policy neglect.
And what monstrous monsters they’ve become. Check out these Market Caps:
Apple: $2.13 trillion
Google (Alphabet): $1.42 trillion
Amazon: $1.08 trillion
Facebook (Meta): $443.13 billion
And to ensure continued favoritism from Daddy Frankenstein – the monsters are very generous with room and board payments. Check out these 2021-2022 pre-election rent numbers:
Lobbying: $25.5 million
Contributions: $1.2 million
Lobbying: $24.6 million
Contributions: $2.6 million
Lobbying: $15.3 million
Contributions: $4.9 million
Lobbying: $9 million
Contributions: $1.2 million
Again, DC created Big Tech through policy action – and inaction. We’ll start with the inaction.
We are now about a quarter century into Big Tech’s mass imposition of Surveillance Capitalism:
“Surveillance capitalism describes a market driven process where the commodity for sale is your personal data, and the capture and production of this data relies on mass surveillance of the internet. This activity is often carried out by companies that provide us with free online services, such as search engines (Google) and social media platforms (Facebook).
“These companies collect and scrutinise our online behaviours (likes, dislikes, searches, social networks, purchases) to produce data that can be further used for commercial purposes. And it’s often done without us understanding the full extent of the surveillance.
“The term surveillance capitalism was coined by academic Shoshana Zuboff in 2014. She suggests that surveillance capitalism depends on:
“‘…the global architecture of computer mediation […] [which] produces a distributed and mostly uncontested new expression of power that I christen: “Big Other.”’…
“Currently, the biggest ‘Big Other’ actors are Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Together, they collect and control unparalleled quantities of data about our behaviours, which they turn into products and services.”
DC has talked about doing something about data privacy for years. But magically – nothing ever happens.
Still hasn’t happened. Bet me it will. I’ll take the over on “Never.”
Having failed to rein in Big Tech’s Surveillance Capitalism when Big Tech wasn’t quite so big – DC has now turned to talking a big game about antitrust legislation to shrink the monsters it helped create.
But Frankenstein’s monsters don’t want any antitrust law either.
“Big Tech is bringing out its heaviest hitters to influence the members whose votes could decide the bill’s fate.”
So I’ll bet DC ends up making just as much substantive progress on antitrust – as they have on privacy.
As ineffectual as DC has been in reining in Big Tech? They were quite effective in jump-starting their monsters.
“Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act gives online platforms a liability shield when they take a ‘good faith’ approach to moderating user-generated content on their services.”
Big Tech’s monsters grew monstrous under the massive, protective government blanket afforded them by Section 230. No apparent matter that Big Tech’s “good faith” has never been very good….
Congress pretends it intends to rein in the hugest cronyism in the history of cronyism….
But Big Tech’s monsters want Section 230 to remain in place as is…
So DC will continue to deliver inaction – to protect its original Big Tech crony action.
On the other hand, DC is repeatedly hyper-active in its pursuit of the Big Tech cronyism known as Net Neutrality. Because Big Tech really wants it.
“Big Tech demands government impose Net Neutrality – because it guarantees them huge government-mandated benefits.
“To name but one:
“As mentioned, Big Tech consumes way more than half of all US bandwidth. Net Neutrality – mandates they not be charged any money for any of it.
“We the Little People would pay MUCH more for our service – to subsidize the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google.
“Net Neutrality is massive government regulation – to impose massive Big Tech cronyism.”
Congress has never passed a law containing the phrase “Network Neutrality.” So there is zero legal authority for anyone in DC to impose it.
But that has not stopped DC’s Denizens from repeatedly, unilaterally, illegally imposing it. And promising to impose it yet again. Because Frankenstein’s monsters demand continued cronyism feedings.
All of this hyper-activity – no matter how many times the courts or non-Big-Tech-favoring Constitutionalist officials subsequently reverse it.
So DC’s Frankenstein created the Big Tech monsters. But now the power dynamic is upside down: Big Tech dictates, and DC dutifully delivers. Like Doc Frankenstein – DC is slowly losing control of its monsters.
How does this end? As quickly as is possible – we hope life imitates Shelley’s art:
“At the end of Frankenstein, Victor and the monster both come to death.”