Facebook dislove

Big Tech: the big de-love.

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We don't look at them the same way anymore. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Google and other giants of Silicon Valley have become monstrous entities because of their inordinate size, their financial power sometimes greater than that of certain states, the insolent fortune of their young leaders; societies sometimes barely a decade old but capable of uncontrollable influence on billions of people, blowing hot and cold on entire sections of the economy. Remember not so long ago, the world was ecstatic about these "startups" whose founders, just teenagers, in jeans and T-shirts, wanted to change the world. A romanticism that is no longer relevant today, at a time when States, the media and users are becoming brutally aware of the nature of these platforms. All over the world, the giants of the net are worried and are being accused, summoned to explain themselves, to change their models. How can we understand such a rapid and brutal turnaround, this disenchantment, this loss of confidence, even this rejection?
 
Qhen Mark Zuckerberg created his social network Facebook at Harvard in 2004, he had a vision: to change the world and the relationship between individuals. A few years earlier, in 1997, when the search engine invented by Sergueï Brin and Larry Page took the name Google, no one could have imagined that twenty years later, this invention would be used for more than 90 % of Internet searches. When in 1996 Jeff Bezos launched his Amazon book trade site, who would have predicted that it would become the world's first fortune?
 

Changing the world

From the early days of these startups to today, their technologies have changed the world. Each new technical wave increased access to knowledge and productivity. Each innovation brought forth platforms that were even simpler to use, more convenient, and provided even more services. Who could imagine surfing the internet today without Google's help? Who can honestly claim to do without a smartphone? How can you imagine taking a teenager away from his or her Snapchat or Facebook network of friends? What would happen if Twitter no longer existed? We dare not think about what would become of Donald Trump...
 
These technologies have fostered economic development and to a large extent the rise of globalization. New activities have sprung up around them, and the digital economy has taken hold almost everywhere. Pleiades of new societies, new models, new applications, new uses have appeared like flowers in a spring meadow. Thanks to these technologies, it seemed to many that the world was becoming a better place. And many people believed, as hard as iron, that it would always be so.
 

First fractures

And then came the year 2016. Three major fractures began to shake the most established certainties. That year, for the first time, smartphones became the leading platform for content delivery, surpassing good old PCs. All possible content could now reach billions of people, directly, anywhere, anytime. From that moment on, platforms such as Facebook or Google, followed by a multitude of merchants, media, bearers of good or bad news, allowed themselves to carry out operations worthy of the best propaganda techniques: incessant notifications, user tracking, content variability according to recipients, gaming, etc. A policy of massive user addiction had been set in motion.
 
The second fracture is geopolitical. 2016 is notably the year in which Donald Trump is elected President of the United States and Brexit is elected President. On these occasions - and this will be confirmed for the elections that will take place in Europe and particularly in France - the world will realize that Facebook influences democracy. 126 million Americans have been exposed, via Facebook, to messages produced by Russian pharmacies to influence the vote. Scientists reveal that Facebook gave more impact to negative messages than to positive ones. As a result, authoritarian regimes or political organisations are promoting a repressive policy. This can be seen all over the world, especially in Asia. The automation that has been the key to the profitability of the platforms has revealed its perverse effect: uncontrollable exposure to the risks of manipulation by external actors with malicious intentions. Terrorist organizations, and more specifically Daech, had very early on perceived the breach and flooded the networks with their propaganda and recruitment maneuvers.
 

Brain hacking

While platforms are unable to effectively filter malicious content, they are ingenious at creating filter arrays to direct messages to targeted categories of their users. This creates ideological bubbles that shape digital realities in which beliefs become more rigid if not extreme. We are thus witnessing the emergence of the era of "fake news", the generalization of convictions linked to conspiracy theories, and the denial of the most established scientific truths such as climate change. Brains are rigidified by the immersion in this maelstrom of dubious information, to the point that a former Google ethics manager, Tristan Harris, speaks of "... the "false news" era". brain hacking "Brain hacking.
The most tragic thing is that these deviant effects are not necessarily deliberate. Ideological bubbles" are the monstrous child of the algorithms necessary for platforms to function. When a network like Facebook has to handle tens of millions of content updates a day, it can only do so with algorithms. Algorithms have a "natural" tendency: to imperceptibly simplify their search horizon by imperceptibly preventing them from considering new ideas and instead focusing on the different facets of old ideas. This is how they automatically fabricate prejudices, fossilized contents that are mistaken for dominant opinions and world realities.
 
The third divide is the increasingly official demands for control over personal data collected by platforms. Facebook is free, like so many other innovations of the digital age. That's what makes it so exponentially successful. But in reality nothing is ever free. In return for using Facebook, users give their most personal information. And that comes at a price, which the internet giants very quickly learned to pay for. This is what makes their colossal fortune. Today, Google and Facebook drain more than 88 % of the online advertising manna. Their algorithms are so powerful, their audience so massive that competition seems impossible.  
 

Rain or shine

With this immense power, the giants of the net can make rain and shine on their entire ecosystem. When Facebook, under the pretext of hunting fake news and return to its social network "fundamentals", chasing the media away from its news feeds, a whole economic sector is on the verge of toppling over. Similarly, when Apple decides to rule change of its applications, thousands of companies have to adapt or perish.
Have the giants of the web gotten too big? Are they dangerous? « Let us not be devoured " becomes alarmed Roger McNamee co-founder of Elevation Partners, one of Silicon Valley's leading investors.
A fracture line appears and with it an increased awareness of the risks raised by these platforms. If we add to this reversal the criticisms linked to the incivility of these tax-evading giants, to the public health risks that addiction to networks and digital machines can pose, to the programmed obsolescence revealed in broad daylight, we arrive at an inevitable situation. The magic no longer works, the spell is broken. Sylvie Kaufmann talks in the newspaper The World of "lost Big-Tech honor," disenchantment and Frankenstein moment. That moment when creatures surpass their creator.
 

Inflection point

States will have to take the problem in hand and regulate the activities of net operators. The era of freedom and unbridled development seems to be over. David Autor, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who cannot be accused of basic anti-technology, says at the Guardian : " We may be at a tipping point where we stop being increasingly happy with our technology champions and instead become realistic about the fact that they are for-profit businesses like so many before them. They create excellent products, which is impressive. But their interests are not intrinsically civic. I don't blame them for that. But it is the responsibility of government, competition policy regulators and concerned citizens to ensure that these important non-state actors are encouraged to behave ethically. ".
 
This need for ethics takes on a major dimension when we observe the lightning development of Artificial Intelligence. Google and Facebook have a considerable lead in this field. What is at stake is public order. The coming innovations will destroy millions of jobs, change the rules of privacy, profoundly alter the models of understanding health and build a different relationship between citizens and the world. In its speech Delivered in Davos on 24 January last, French President Emmanuel Macron called for us to take care that our world does not go from Schumpeter's world with its creative destruction to Darwin's world with its law of the strongest. He predicted: " We must also think about regulation in terms of the principles of the major international digital and innovation players. There is financial destabilization [...] but there is also destabilization in our societies linked to technological innovation. Today we do not have the framework for thinking about them, at what point we will decide to stop innovations because we will have to do so at some point. When we say artificial intelligence, we put a red line because it disrupts not the old productive systems but our relationship to individual freedom, to respect for private rights, because it calls into question the integrity of the human being and of living things. ".
 
Regulation, red line, respect for rights. Big words are out. GAFA times are really changing.
 

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