. . . . ” Shoshana Zuboff named this business model “surveillance capitalism,” and in a Times Op-Ed a year ago she detailed how these sites morphed from “bulletin boards” to “hyper-velocity global bloodstreams into which anyone may introduce a dangerous virus without a vaccine.”
Alas, our lawmakers were either too gridlocked, too bought off or too tempted to use these platforms themselves to produce serious legislation. And the platforms said, “Don’t blame us — regulate us.” But they all also used their vast lobbying powers to resist that.
The result? “While the Chinese have designed and deployed digital technologies to advance their system of authoritarian rule, the West has remained compromised and ambivalent,” Zuboff wrote last month in this paper. “This failure has left a void where democracy should be, and the dangerous result has been a two-decade drift toward private systems of surveillance and behavioral control outside the constraints of democratic governance.”
opean Union, which is already wary of the huge power of these big U.S. companies, has already forced search engines like Google to grant E.U. citizens the right to delete unfavorable or inaccurate online material about them from searches and is more sensitive to the dangers of fringe parties, will use its clout as the world’s largest trading bloc to show us how to democratically project our values into cyberspace.
A few weeks ago, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, released an open letter that pulled no punches. She noted that she had watched on television “as the angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. I found those images deeply unsettling. … This is what happens when messages spread by online platforms and social media become a threat to democracy.”
She noted that in December the E.U. leadership had proposed to the European Parliament a Digital Services Act and a Digital Market Act to make sure that “what is unlawful in the analogue world is in the future also unlawful online … We also want the platforms to provide transparency regarding how their algorithms work. … We also want clear requirements for internet firms to accept responsibility for the way in which they distribute, promote and remove content” and to mitigate the systemic risk they can pose.” . . .