Silicon Valley: Disturbing by Design
Google knows where you live, how you earn a living, what you do for fun, and who your friends are. And it wants to know more.
An internal company video obtained this week by The Verge reveals the company’s plans for total data collection, in which “Google helps nudge users into alignment with their goals, custom-prints personalized devices to collect more data, and even guides the behavior of entire populations.” Titled the “Selfish Ledger,” the video envisions a world in which Google’s artificial intelligence programs harvest data from its users. If Google doesn’t know your weight, its Selfish Ledger will 3D-print one.
Hop on the scale, fatty.
From pixel-tracking and shadow banning to restricted viewing and content filtering, Alphabet, Amazon, Google and Facebook hold a terrifying power to restrict dissenting opinions, engineer behavior and control our lives. These all-knowing tech companies already implement information controls that censor political thought.
Google maintains an unbreakable 90-percent monopoly on worldwide search results. That dominance has inspired a growing number of conservatives to call for the federal government to use anti-trust laws to break up the tech oligarchs. Perhaps it’s time that the Anti-Trust Division in Department of Justice take a long hard look at Silicon Valley monopolies and do its job to protect Americans.
Right now, Google helps advertisers, marketers and “third-party creatives” setup their own covert surveillance operations to harvest user data. With pixel tracking — the practice of embedding a tiny one-pixel-by-one pixel image in an email — anyone can identify when, where and how you accessed your email.
But the future is even more disturbing. Amazon has filed patents that would allow its Echo devices to listen to its users’ conversations. How exactly does trust-busting stop this surveillance?
“The Soviet Union could only have dreamed of such manipulative power,” writes Allum Bokhari, senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News, a frequent target of tech censorship. “No other organization in history has had the power to shape opinion, control public discourse, and influence democratic voters.”
Censorship seems ingrained in Silicon Valley culture and manifests itself in many forms. The most brazen: directly deleting dissenting reviews. Last year, Amazon came under fire for deleting nearly 900 one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s book, “What Happened.” Meanwhile, conservative book authors have been complaining about Amazon’s mass deletions of favorable reviews for their works.
If Facebook doesn’t like your politics, it can censor your speech by limiting the audience – even when people have subscribed to your content. Last September, pro-Trump online commentators Diamond and Silk began noticing their videos weren’t reaching their 1.4 million Facebook followers. Ignored for months, the pair were eventually told that their content was “unsafe to the community” and therefore subject to restrictions.
“This decision is final and it is not appealable in any way,” wrote Facebook, which has a two-thirds market share of global social media use, to the sisters.
Just as devastating as direct censorship, Facebook and Google can alter their algorithms in ways that decrease traffic for conservative outlets. Right-leaning Rare.us once generated 22.5 million unique visitors, but was knocked out by changes to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. When conservative radio host Dennis Prager started gaining millions of views for his PragerU video series, Google-owned YouTube responded by placing age restrictions on its content.
Earlier this year, Project Veritas exposed Twitter’s shameful practice of shadow banning conservative speakers. Users under a shadow ban continue to post content unaware that it’s not being delivered to the public. The company has doubled down on this content restriction, announcing a new policy that will hide all tweets from “trolls and harmful users.”
If all else fails, tech giants retain the right to deny you service. Rep. Marsha Blackburn discovered last fall that her pro-life views were not allowed on Twitter. This month, Google stopped all ads in advance of an Irish referendum on the country’s constitutional amendment recognizing the equal rights of the unborn. Pro-life campaigners say that has hampered their ability to communicate directly with voters.
Remember two decades ago when Google promised to always provide users with unbiased and objective content? Even three years ago, Google still claimed to adhere to its “Don’t Be Evil” manifesto. At least, they’ve dropped that pretense.
“We understand if this is disturbing,” Google’s X subsidiary said in a response to the Selfish Ledger video. “It is designed to be.”
For the explosive growth of power by the new tech oligarchs it is time for the anti-trust division of Department of Justice to review these Monopolies with serious anti-trust consideration.
Shawn Steel, a former California Republican Party chair, is California’s committeeman for the Republican National Committee.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.