For most of the planet, it's hard to imagine our lives without the existence of tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook/Meta, Microsoft and Amazon. They are a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, totally immersed in many things we do, from work, social media, shopping and more. And while their products are helpful and keep us entertained, their sudden rise to power and influence carries a dark side already impacting humanity.
"The Rise of Big Tech" examines the astronomic growth trajectory of these tech mega-corporations, not just in sales or financial gains but also in social and economic influence. They don't seem to be slowing down and have dominated everything. They monopolize the industry and control their algorithms that even a slight change can have devastating effects on smaller companies that depend on their platforms.
They have also been influencing politics in various ways. They are significant contributors to various political campaigns and are currently spending so much money on lobbying. They are already affecting the outcome of cases filed against them in different state houses.
How much taxes they pay is also highly opaque, vague and unclear. They use legal tax avoidance techniques that give them every advantage, including subsidiaries in lower-tax countries, moving earnings to tax havens and special accounting techniques.
In Facebook's case, for instance, they exchanged tax cuts for installing their data centres in Prineville, Oregon. The city, in 2020, lost 120 million dollars in potential tax earnings, while Facebook generated nearly 30 billion dollars in profit. Yet, the local politicians know that their city will receive donations from the company, including new school buildings, facilities and the like, making it easier for them to influence these lawmakers.
Of course, the bigger they become, the harder it is for anyone to challenge - or stop - them. They regularly gobble up the competition. The more subscribers they have, the more value, giving them profits and earnings that enable them to buy out their potential competition for extremely high prices. They either assimilate the competition into their "collective" or bury them.
On the other hand, Apple wants software companies to turn over 30% of all their sales through the app store leading to many congressional hearings to try and break these practices.
Finally, the biggest concern is that Big Tech products and platforms can access so much of our data and information that it's insane. They have little to no regulation, so what they do to that data is up to them, and of course, they monetize our information.
Also known as market-driven surveillance violates our sovereignty and should be prevented, mainly when the data is used to perpetuate lies, start uprisings and incite hate.
The question now is if governments and we, their customers, can somehow still control them to help safeguard our freedoms. Only time will tell.
Directed by: Milan Panek, Dirk Laabs