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Fighting for Privacy as Tech Monopolies Undermine Democracy

 

From left: Truthdig communications coordinator Sarah Wesley, author Jonathan Taplin, Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer and Truthdig Publisher Zuade Kaufman.

The services of the tech giants Facebook, Google and Amazon are used by millions of Americans, but along with the benefits of expanding technology come the destruction of privacy, growth in inequality and ultimately, the collapse of democracy.


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This is the argument Jonathan Taplin makes in his new book, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.”

Taplin, a longtime professor and director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, sat down with Truthdig Publisher Zuade Kaufman, Editor in Chief Robert Scheer and their team for a discussion on democracy and privacy in the age of technology monopolies. Watch below:

Kaufman discussed journalism schools, assumptions regarding the role of journalists and how “fake news” has always existed, but can now easily and quickly go viral. She pointed out that readers always need to consider the source of the information they take in.

The wealth of information advertisers are able to access on social media sites was also part of the conversation.

These tech monopolies, Taplin argued during the conversation, “act like bullies.”

“Monopolies end up controlling the regulatory bodies that are supposed to be supervising them,” he added. “They get whatever they want.”

Scheer also has a wealth of knowledge on privacy rights being undermined by technology—his most recent book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” examines how both the government and big business monitor every aspect of modern American lives.


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So what does this mean for privacy rights in this tech-driven age? “You can forget about freedom,” Scheer posited. He added that, even during Nixon’s administration, during which Scheer was on a government watch list, Nixon had “nothing” compared to the tools big-tech monopolies have today.

This conversation is even more crucial in the age of Trump, as the Federal Communications Commission (led by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai) and the GOP-led Congress seek to destroy net neutrality through recent legislation.

“The Trump administration’s effort to kill Net Neutrality is part of its ongoing attack on free speech and the First Amendment,” Joseph Torres of the organization Free Press recently argued. “Don’t be mistaken about what’s really going on. The White nationalist Trump administration is further embracing authoritarianism. And that’s why the Trump team wants to destroy free speech and dissent—because they threaten authoritarian governments.”

“Let’s think about what liberty really means,” Taplin concluded. “Is it liberty that I’m addicted to my smartphone?”

Watch past editions of “Live at Truthdig” here.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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