The only way to rein in big tech is to treat them as a public service | Nick Srnicek

The drive for profit is behind many of the ills of Google, Facebook et al. Unions and public ownership are the only way to solve this

After years of praising their virtues, governments across the world are belatedly waking up to the problems posed by big tech. From India and Australia to France and America – and now the UK, with its report from the Digital Competition Expert Panel – politicians have been reckoning with how to mitigate the harms of the world’s largest technology platforms. And they all seem to arrive at the same answer: competition is the magic mechanism that will somehow tame the giants, unleash innovation and fix our digital world.

But what if competition is the problem rather than the solution? After all, it’s competition – not size – that demands more data, more attention, more engagement and more profits at all costs. It’s competition that demands the tech giants expand. It’s competition for ad dollars that drives Google, Facebook and Amazon to ignore privacy concerns and expand data collection. It’s the struggle to dominate voice interfaces and smart-home data that leads Amazon and Google to aggressively push their surveillance machines into our homes. It’s competition for attention that leads apps and platforms to make their products as addictive as possible. It’s competition for users and engagement that makes Twitter, Facebook and others turn a blind eye to abuse, fake news and far-right radicalisation. And it’s competition over who will be the dominant AI provider that leads the tech giants to constantly colonise new sources of data. The government’s efforts to increase competition risk simply aggravating these problems.

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