As is well known, Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter accounts remain suspended. The administrators of these two companies deliberated and found that the now-ex-president’s posts incited violence and promoted lies.
You don’t have to be a genius to see that the leaders of these social networks only did away with this high-profile user after it was certain that his presidency was coming to an end. This fact alone would be enough to doubt these individuals’ supposed commitment to the truth, or to see that the only value they defend is their ability to make millions of dollars more.
You don’t have to dive deep into the memory banks to find evidence that truth matters very little to these companies, and that unethical behavior is rampant. There are more examples of such abuses than could fit in this entire newspaper.
In theory, all companies should be guided by ethical principles — which of course include not producing or propagating lies. And we know that ethical guidelines in the corporate world are far more respected if the powers that be hold sway over their profits. It is worth remembering that in the case of democracies, it is the representatives of the people that hold this power. In other words, either the state chooses to impose regulations, or the importance of making a buck outweighs almost everything else. Is this a pessimistic view of humankind and capitalism? Perhaps, but this is what history teaches us. As it turns out, there is no “invisible hand” for business ethics.
So who regulates social networks and what is there to regulate? Nobody and nothing. They are not typical media outlets — they are not regulated by the same entities as other media — and the “product” they sell is content produced by people and organizations to which they have no real connection, who are able to post regardless of whether or not it will make a profit for the social network.
In other words, we have companies with unlimited funds who go completely unregulated, and can decide, in large part, who has a voice or not, what is true and false, who can advertise and what the advertiser can sell. Add to that the little detail that they know everything about their customers. That is, in addition to selling what is given to them free of charge, they also sell the information they have about us — and no one has ever known as much about all aspects of our lives as these companies do (I’m thinking of Amazon and Google, too).
This power, never before wielded by private companies, is so great that it calls into question their political power to an unprecedented degree. The too-big-to-fail mentality of financial institutions that influenced (and still influence) governments is nothing compared to this not-so-new reality.
Globalization has lifted many millions of people out of misery, but has concentrated extraordinary power into half a dozen companies that now truly govern the world.
The control of the markets where they operate (and they operate in new markets seemingly every day) is absolute. Its size is so large that any possible competitor is quickly destroyed or absorbed. In fact, there is no market at all. In practice, it is impossible to compete with these companies.
So the dream of a world government has actually been achieved, but it has turned out to be a nightmare. We are not governed by anyone who fights for the common good. This “government” of CEOs is only interested in the profit of the companies it owns.
Will we have to do without Amazon’s excellent service? Will we have to forego knowing about the lives of our friends through Facebook, or to cease sharing opinions through Twitter? I don’t know, probably. What we absolutely cannot do is to accept, like sheep, that these companies can condition our way of thinking or control our every move. Above all, we cannot hand over our destiny to people we haven’t elected.