Google Trial Must Fuel the Global Movement Against Digital Capitalism

 google dont be evil

The US Justice Department has opened a case against Google in the Washington courtroom this week over its unethical business practices in the past decade. In the main, Google is being accused of being an internet monopoly that pays billions of dollars to major smartphone companies in order to become the default search engine across all their platforms.

Everyone would know that smartphone devices like Apple have an automatic function to take you straight to Google whenever you click on an item that requires a new tab to be opened – even if you wanted such a link to be opened on Google or not. In this regard, Google gets to receive a traffic of visitors on its website per second, and these eyeballs give it good numbers for advertising revenue.

By extension, because the usage of Google in this manner grows to being truly monopolized and normalized, it becomes an addictive application that also gets to stick into our heads without consent. This approach helps Google to gain hypercontrol of the internet market and it eliminates upcoming competitors in the process.

The trial might be taking place in Washington but there is no way we can overlook it as Africans. Our continent hosts the largest population of young people in the world and its rising levels of access to education and technology draws its youth into smartphones and Google. This huge international footprint that Google has as an American private company has potential to expose all of us to unimaginable risks.

I can think of three immediate risks. Firstly, Google generates revenue most of its revenue from search advertising. In other words, the company is in essence an advertising company first and foremost, before everything else that it claims to do. It specializes in creative, artistic, and manipulative messaging and imaging to attract maximum clicks and sales by all means necessary.

This means that the immediate results we see come through on the first page of our searching on Google are not the most useful information we actually need, but it is rather the most commercially available data that Google chooses to produce in order to amplify its bottom line. In other words, the world’s reliance on Google generated information is not completely reliable.

Secondly, Google uses algorithms to generate search results, including a person’s location. This requires a separate case concerning the human right to privacy. Again, this information is unreliable given that it never shows information that a person disagrees with or doesn’t prefer. This practice of showing a user only the stuff they agree or like has potential to produce a population that is intolerant to difference. This therefore explains why social media today is the safe heaven for racism, homophobia, cyberbullying, xenophobia, and Islamophobia amongst other patterns of hate.

Thirdly, Google’s online monopoly poses an international security threat. We’ve seen how mainstream media was manipulated by the US intelligence services in 2002 to incite the unjustifiable war and invasion of Iraq. The control of information by the powerful is an ongoing crisis today – and we have seen how progressive activists, writers, journalists, artists, and movements get targeted, marginalized, illegitimised, and indeed killed through the deliberate distortions made by the powerful on social media.

Beyond these external problems concerning Google, we have also seen that this online monopoly giant has an internal crisis of labour exploitation and casualization. In fact, the entire Silicon Valley is a museum of dehumanization. Online workers, operators, writers, and engineers work long hours for poor wages despite the trillions of profits that these companies make per second.

Not only must the Washington trial pursued by the US Justice Department proceed and be carefully followed with critique, but the rollout of mass actions against digital capitalism and weak states must take foot across the whole world. Imperialist organisations such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Walmart, Nestle, JP Morgan, Coca Cola, Amazon, and all private banks are responsible for the gross human rights violations we see all around us.

Their continuous pursuit for profits is producing environmental disasters, mental illnesses, wars, destruction of emerging economies, obliteration of local democracies, unimaginable inequality, and the surveillance of critical voices. In essence, we must organize now to destroy capitalism before it eats all of humanity dead.

Dr Pedro Mzileni teaches sociology at the University of the Free State in South Africa, writes in personal capacity

Twitter – @PedroMzileni

Email – [email protected]




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