McHugh David: The fear of going after big tech

The finger wagging continues at ‘big tech,’ especially social media, a week after President Joe Biden’s inauguration and several weeks after a bevy of social media platforms and hosting sites seemingly ‘silenced’ conservative viewpoints.

The reasoning used by the companies was ‘dangerous conspiracy theories’ and adding fuel to the fire that had caused the storming of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6.

Whether you, the reader, buys into one side or the other is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is the situation caused the immediate demise of upstart Parler – the substitute for Twitter – and has caused an outrage among conservatives that their voice is being ‘silenced.’

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Now, obviously conservatives still have a voice on media and social media, the show goes on in that regard surrounding discussions of voter fraud, stealing of the election, etc.

But stopping Parler dead in its tracks is a pretty wild feat. While it may not seem like much, Parler was drawing users away from Twitter, or at least those users were utilizing both platforms.

Meanwhile, as the upstart Twitter-replacement fell to ruin – because new tech and software cannot survive as big a hiccup as losing your server provider for several weeks – Google, Facebook, et. al. chugged along as if nothing happened.

There were dissenting opinions, cries of foul, and even people threatening to check out for good!

And then, two days later, they reappeared.

Why?

Well, there’s several answers to the question that can be broken down into two very different categories.

One is a general lack of understanding of what ‘big tech’ really is, and for what it truly stands. It has been mentioned before, in this very space, that two-in-three adults in North America have a Facebook account. Somewhere between 50% and 60% of those accounts are active on a daily basis.

That’s just over 200 million people, per day, utilizing the platform in just one part of the world.

More on weekends.

It’s not hard to imagine what a newspaper publisher, radio host, or T.V. producer would do for that kind of market share.

But wait, perhaps we’re not quite going far enough. 66% is beyond market share, that’s reaching into the realm of ‘part of every day life.’

Take Google, for example, with 3.5 billion searches per day. That’s one search, per two people on the planet. To compare, the upstart DuckDuckGo (which started in 2007) has 35 million searches per day. They’re Google’s competitor, touting ‘no tracking searches.’

What you see is a circle of convenience. We, as humans, return to the ease of operation every time when the latest and greatest just doesn’t bust through.

When it does? It gets bought. The exception to this rule is TikTok, but that won’t last forever. TikTok already had a difficult start after being labeled as ‘anti-American’ and having to move ownership to the continential U.S.

It’s always been said that the greatest entrepreneurs, even just the greatest sales people, are providing the easiest path forward. Take Amazon – you don’t even have to leave your house! Facebook provides the platform for everything, really, with easily linkable content sending you whereever you’d like to go. For the small business person, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and YouTube – as well as a well setup Google My Business Page – are requirements to survive into today’s landscape.

At first business relented, because it gave the little guy a chance to reach their audience in a new, cheaper way. Now, all of those platforms are dominated by big brands and are full of… well, noise.

Think about the average consumer, as well – they hate advertising. They just want to visit their brands, to see the latest trends, when they feel like it. It makes for a difficult marketplace.

All-the-while people are perusing these platforms, for free, to find the content they desire. The currency? Personal data.

And they give it willingly.

As mentioned before, there’s a massive amount of complaining, rummaging, and mashing of teeth but in the end the convenience provided is simply too great and far outweighs the perceived ‘injustices’ caused by social media.

Tony Robbins said the only time change will come is when the pain of not changing outweighs the pain of the status quo.

Where does that deliver big tech? At the top of food chain, as giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. earned more money during the pandemic through increasing popularity in their platforms and investment through the stock market.

These titans of industry hold more market share than any company in their respective lane ever has, in almost all of history, and continue to grow by leaps-and-bounds.

Amazon gained 75% on it’s stock price in 2020. Amazon wasn’t the only stock to grow, nor were the social medias, as big box retailers found ways to deliver to customers without being nearly as hindered by coronavirus restrictions as small business.

But that’s another conversation for another time.

It’s important to note that battling all that capital takes guts and time. Imagine being the politician who made their platform using YouTube and Facebook to reach their audience more directly, and had never used traditional media outside an interview? What, then, is the strategy when he or she suddenly takes the fight to them?

Big brands, obviously, stand to gain from the proliferation of social media. It keeps buyers all in one spot, and the metrics for when their social media pages and websites get a hit.

The internet has done some amazing things. It’s given a voice to people, businesses, causes, and a host of other good things who would have otherwise remained silent. It provides entertainment through a vast array of media, giving rise to new forms including podcasting, small shows on YouTube and Facebook, as well as providing more information that any stagnant set of Encyclopedias ever could.

But it has also created an endless void of dark possibilities, proliferating depression, sociopathic tendencies, and giving rise to conspiracy theories and narcisissm. Mostly because, well, everyone is all in one place and these issues are easy to spread.

Without options, there is no competition, so the people of America must first ask is social media a necessary part of our lives? Is it a right? Or do these companies fall under the same umbrella as other corporations? In the final scenario, any corporation with that much market share would be demolished by the government in short order, divided into as many parts as necessary.

You reap what you sow, or so the saying goes, and how much will the people sow before social media reaches the point of addiction, a necessity in every day life?

I invite anyone to go back and read this column. This is not fear mongering: 3.5 billion searches with Google, 200 million users daily, 75% stock gain are just numbers and they are easily verified. They’re real, this is happening, and the discussion becomes – does anyone really want to change it?

Or will the current status quo become part of our every day lives.

McHugh David is publisher of the Livingston Parish News.