The tech geniuses and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley have been lauded for their creativity and innovation, held up as models of financial enterprise and economic brilliance. But lately opinions have been changing. Now the titans of technology are being regarded more as 19th century robber barons.
According to Ben Smith in There’s Blood In The Water In Silicon Valley and Eric Newcomer in Backlash Against Silicon Valley is Heating Up, both conservatives and liberals–as well as people in between–are reacting against the magnates of the tech industry.
Conservatives are irked at the way the industry supports liberal causes. Not only by funneling lots of money to Democrats but by firing employees who express politically-incorrect views and tamping down conservative voices in the search engines and social network sites that they rule.
But for all of their social and political liberalism, the technology industrialists have also angered the left. A recent survey of tech company executives shows what activists have long been complaining about, an extreme hostility to labor unions and government regulation.
Meanwhile, conservatives, liberals, and moderates can all agree in resenting how the tech industry is endangering Americans’ privacy with its automatic information-gathering on consumers in order to target advertising. In addition to the intentional information-gleaning, the technology that has been developed is easily exploited for government surveillance and identity theft.
The big tech corporations have also come under scrutiny under anti-trust and monopoly laws. Both liberals and conservatives oppose monopolies, which happen when companies get so big that they buy up or run out of business their competition, so that they can become the sole provider of the service, cornering the market and letting them set prices to whatever they please. Conservatives dislike monopolies because they prevent the free market from functioning; liberals dislike them because of their general aversion to big corporations.
The European Union has slapped a $2.7 billion fine on Google for manipulating search requests to favor its businesses and advertisers. Then, when a think-tanker praised the EU’s action, Google pressured the foundation to fire him! (See this editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune.)
And although Silicon Valley says all the politically-correct things about diversity and feminism–and gets rid of employees who dissent–in practice, companies are coming under fire for their own lack of diversity and mistreatment of women!
And all sides complain about the “fake news” that the new technology makes possible, the way the internet can be used to recruit and motivate terrorists and extremists of both the left and the right, and how it all can be exploited politically.
Then there is all of the cultural disruption that the new technology is causing, such as the debasement of human relationships, the bankruptcy of local businesses due to online retail, the cyberbullying and trolling that comes from anonymous communication, etc., etc. (For an example of a recent case that has sparked the ire of the general public, see this.)
Here is Eric Newcomer’s list of grievances:
- Simmering 99 percenters angry over tech’s growing power
- Mounting antitrust concerns
- Animus from ad-dependent media companies
- Bias charges from right-wingers without a seat at the table in Silicon Valley
- Complaints, especially from Democrats, about Russian interference in the election, particularly via social media
- An effort to reckon with gender discrimination and harassment at male dominated engineering companies
- Accusations of fake news and clickbait all around.
Then again, all of these complaints about the technology companies are typed using word processing technology, posted on internet blogs, and discussed on social media. The critics might pause to show at least a little gratitude.