The (hidden) tyranny of the tech industry

The (hidden) tyranny of the tech industry

  • It turns out corporations, not governments, are the weapon of choice for power-hungry megalomaniacs
  • It’s time for the generation who grew up on the Internet, who understands the Internet, to stand up and defend it
  • We need a global (online) constitution—a bill of rights

The world has fundamentally changed…

I don’t mean the world is changing or is about to change, I mean it’s over, done, fubar… forever altered into a world that will (fingers crossed) never be the same.

For the better or worse is the only decision we have yet to make.

As a Millennial, I’ve always felt our generation to be living through a wholly new experience… one foot in a unique past, one foot in an unprecedented future.

We’ve seen not only the birth of the cell phone, but its evolution into something integral to our very way of being.

We’ve experienced the evolution of gaming, from Nintendo Entertainment Systems to MMORPG’s (“Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games” for our uninitiated readers) whereby we play a game, simultaneously and in real-time, with millions of other people from around the world, bonding, yelling and (competently) cursing with each other in languages most baby boomers have never even heard spoken aloud.

We have a near limitless quantity of new movies, documentaries, lectures, television shows, articles, books and news at our fingertips 24/7. Never ending access to different points of view, different cultures, different ways of being and experiencing the world… expanding our points of view, our minds and our knowledge of the universe.

And of course, we have lived, and were given these gifts, through the dawn of the World Wide Web… an institution so scared to us that in most cases (albeit selfishly) it is the only thing we actually love more than ourselves.

But it’s always been with a certain amount of uncontrollable melancholy that we remember the past, like the Old Man in that seedy tavern in Orwell’s Oceania, who can remember, just barely, a time before Big Brother had broken society under a totalitarian regime of complete control… a time before strict government censorship, mind-numbing political correctness, incentivized conformity and fear-mongered perpetual warfare were considered normal.

But Orwell got something wrong.

It turns out corporations, not governments, are the weapons of choice for those power-hungry megalomaniacs who think we, stupid proletarians, desperately need their infallible wisdom, bestowed from on high and from behind a secret curtain, to keep us safe, employed and free (read scared, poor and in debt).

After all, power comes in many forms.

And today, the most powerful of these corporations are in the tech sector.

In 2009 it was Apple, an American company, who decided to censor the Dali Lama from spreading his message of happiness using an App in the Apple Store to reach iPhone users in China.

Where was the public debate? Where were all our lofty ideals of freedom of speech, choice and religion?

They were in a cushy, well lit corner of some Apple corporate office where a bunch of money-hungry plutocrats made a decision to sell out (or hold meaningless) every freedom and right we as Americans hold dear… all for the betterment of other money-hungry plutocrats.

And it’s not just Apple.

Facebook. Google. Yahoo. They all sold out and kowtowed to Chinese communism… all for the promise of future profits. After all, it’s the American way.

At the very least, these issues should be debated and policies proposed to set an acceptable precedent for these types of situations.

There is a reason we do not negotiate with terrorists (for the most part). It’s because, invariably, giving in to unreasonable, morally dubious and tyrannical demands only lead to an escalation of those demands.

If China (and the Chinese people) want the iPhone, let them accept it on our terms. If not, then tough freaking luck, they don’t get the iPhone. Let them make their own cell phones (which they did anyway by stealing the technology from us!)

But that’s China, you say, screw the Chinese, they’re used to that kind of patronizing censorship. That could never happen here in America.

First of all, relax. That statement comes uncomfortably close to sounding racist.

More importantly, once you accept that kind of censorship, you’ve made a deal with the devil.

The Internet (as every Millennial already knows) is borderless. Something as trivial as your location on this earth (as long as it has good Internet) makes almost no difference to us.

We also know that this kind of nanny-state reasoning in ONE part of the Internet affects ALL parts of the Internet… our Internet.

In 2010, less than a year after Apple bent over for China, in that same plush corner of Apple a secret commune was held that decided a well-known online political cartoonist, Mark Fiore, was drawing things that offended Apple’s seemingly delicate sensibilities.

They banned his work from appearing in the App Store.

Apple’s justification for violating Fiore’s constitutional rights? Quote, they didn’t like it that he “ridicules public figures.”

And who knows if that was the real reason. Maybe they did it because a public figure paid them to, promised them something else in return, or in some way coerced them.

Or maybe they did it because they could… there is no appeal process against these sorts of decisions.

Mark Fiore was only allowed back in Apple’s good graces after he won the Pulitzer Prize for those same cartoons later that year!

Freedom of speech is not only your right to openly state what you believe, but it is my right to hear what you have to say… there is no freedom without both of these conditions.

And yet, in true Orwellian fashion, if you believe what society is trying to cram down our throats nowadays, freedom of speech is the negative right NOT to hear anything that you might consider offensive.

When the hell did that frightening switch take place?

Where was the public debate? The constitutional change? The public outrage?

In our modern age of high-priced and morally bankrupt mega law firms, the legal system is providing less and less of those protections Americans once felt proud and honored to call rights. Citizens United hammered the last nail in that illusion.

Solutions will have to come from We The People. If there is hope, after all, it lies with the proles.

One possible solution has been championed by the father, the inventor and in many ways the first crusader of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee.

“We need a global constitution—a bill of rights,” the man who gave us the Internet says.

The idea is part of an initiative called the “Web We Want,” an appeal to citizens in every country to draft their own version of a digital Magna Carta, a set of laws which would outline the basic rights of all human beings on the Internet.

His reasoning?

“Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture.”

He, like most Millennials, recognizes the raw, transformative power of the Internet and the dangers of ignoring our responsibility to lay down in clear terms the limits to those corporations who have (albeit profitably) exploited and co-opted our greatest resource.

“These issues have crept up on us,” he goes on to say, “our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it.”

Who better than the once great United States of America to champion those freedoms and once again prove why we deserve to call ourselves the greatest country on earth?

Maybe it could help us earn (redeem) our way back to that tile.

The Internet is under attack. It has been for some time.

It’s time for the generation who grew up on the Internet, who understands the Internet, to stand up and.. well, at least speak up about it… before all our base are belong to them.


About the author

Ralph Pililian was born in Southern California. He studied Philosophy and English at California State University Los Angeles. He currently works in the Tech Industry in Los Angeles, California.