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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchHow to Save Democracy from Technology: Ending Big Tech’s Information Monopoly

How to Save Democracy from Technology: Ending Big Tech’s Information Monopoly

Authors: Francis Fukuyama, Barak Richman, and Ashish Goel

Affiliation: Stanford University, Duke University School of Law, Stanford University

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place: January/February 2021/ New York USA

Type of Literature: Article

Word Count: 3991

Link: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-11-24/fukuyama-how-save-democracy-technology

Keywords: Democracy, Technology, Big Tech Companies, United States, Information Monopoly

 

Brief:

 

The authors introduce the significance of economic and political power dominated by internet platforms and Big Tech corporations. They argue that these Big Tech companies dominate the circulation of information, and influence political mobilization in a way threatening democracy. Although there is a prominent consensus about the threat of these companies, there is little agreement about how to react to it. The authors distinguish digital markets from its conventional counterparts since they have control over a huge amount of data, can benefit from the network effects, and enjoy the whole market—not only shares of the market with less competition. Accordingly, these platforms are gaining more power and control over politics that cause political harms even more than any economic harm. They endanger the well-functioning of democracy to the extent that they can manipulate elections. The authors referred to alternative methods to check this power, which are government regulation, and promotion of greater competition either by providing “data portability” or depending on “privacy law.” However, all these alternatives fall short due to the context of the US or because of technical reasons. Accordingly, they suggest a promising solution to check the power of Big Tech companies by what is called “middleware.” Middleware is software that works on the background of an existing platform to adjust the presentation of data by using evaluative labels or influencing the rankings of feeds. Middleware task will be just a “fact-check” or “label content.” To conclude, governments’ efforts to check the Big Tech’s power are not effective in this regard, however, a middleware can solve this issue more efficiently by swapping this power from technology platforms and delivering it to a group of competitive firms that enable the public to customize their online experiences. Regardless, this approach would not suppress extremists or conspiracy theorists; rather, it would limit their scope. This curtailment is the main purpose of the middleware since the threat comes when extremists are dominating the mainstream and not staying on the periphery. 


By: Yomna Süleyman, CIGA Research Assistant



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