In this article…
At the beginning of the 20th century, while displacing the status quo power (the British), the US made the first attempt through fourteen points speech of Woodrow Wilson to design the liberal world order. During the interwar period, this attempt was experimented and done away with, due to shortcomings, after the second world war. It was again calibrated through Washington Consensus in 1989 in which market-oriented policies were promulgated.
Globalization led to the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations with the help of trade and technologies. Technology has eroded the physical boundary and brought people closer to community irrespective of the nation, he/she belongs. In the real sense, it has given practical shape to the sociological theory in International relations. Thus, the growth of tech giants has emerged in this process. But this system is neither full proof nor free from challenges.
Immanuel Wallerstein’s World-systems theory, a grand sociological theory explains the working of capitalism at the global level in contemporary times. Modernization theorists suggested that the path for poverty alleviation of the developing countries is greater integration with the international economy. Immanuel Wallerstein decoded the purpose behind this mean. He criticized the modernist thesis and claims that the closer the country to the international economy, the poorer it will be.
Western countries still exploit developing countries through their MNCs and tech giants. According to Wallerstein, capitalism has become a world system and expanded throughout the globe. For colonial powers, currently, technology is a means to achieve the end objective of draining the wealth of the developing world. West is dominated in the field of tech giants like Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook, etc. Any other parallel initiatives don’t attract people because these tech giants have become common sense.
Rule makers, rule breakers
Big tech giants often defend themselves with their “rules”, formulated by themselves, which lack public consensus. At the same time, they violate the rules formed by the people in a democratic setup. For e.g. the Competition Commission of India initiated two anti-trust investigations against Google in 2020 – First, One for unfairly promoting its own payments app, Google Play. Second, The other for involving in anti-competitive practices by restricting companies from creating modified versions of Android OS for smart TVs.
Apart from this, in 2019, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has ‘investigated allegations that Amazon India and Flipkart violated foreign direct investment norms that bar overseas firms from multi-brand retail.’ Even in past, ED probed Flipkart in 2012 and found evidence of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations.
Abrupt and undemocratic behavior
While acting on hate and offensive speech, there is no transparency in decision-making. First, Kangna Ranawat may have been making statements against Twitter’s policy. But the removal of her account was an abrupt process. A similar trend was seen in the case of Ravishankar Prasad and Rahul Gandhi. Second, A foreign company, Twitter has been regulated freedom of speech in India, through their rules, which is objectionable. How can Twitter deprived free speech in a community? It violates the social contract because Twitter is not a stakeholder in this contract.
Third, Twitter or WhatsApp frames their own rules, as well as they themselves, moderate user’s content. It violates the principle of justice which says “you can’t be a judge in your own case”. Let these companies run their platform on their own rules but moderation shall be in hands of an independent third party. Fourth, the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects free speech. Although that protection is against the government and doesn’t apply to private companies. The influence these companies have on us and the social narrative means the spirit of the 1st amendment shall apply to them.
Fifth, Even the nature of the judgment of twitter is very extreme. Unlike Twitter, If someone commits a crime in society, even the judiciary in a democratic country like India doesn’t ostracize the convicted one. Thus, WhatsApp should comply with Indian norms and not vice-versa. Sixth, Twitter displayed a map of Leh as part of China and later as part of Jammu and Kashmir state (instead of a separate Union Territory). For that, a legal notice has been served to Twitter. Geopolitically, it has been taking a keen interest.
Seventh, Today Twitter is being used for creating narratives in international politics. For example, Twitter allows the Taliban to open its account and express whatever it can. But on the other hand, it restricts the free speech of the former US president by tagging “manipulated“ over Twitter. Power of the Twitter prevailed even over the most powerful position in the world, the US president. Any other parallel initiatives like “Koo App” are not able to challenge their hegemony.
Prevent Big tech to be another East India Company
Big tech companies like Twitter have been interfering in national politics in the name of rules. For example, after the Bihar assembly election, many leaders accused the new government “Chor darwaje se sarkar bani hai“. Twitter didn’t tag them ‘manipulated media‘. But for other parties, discriminately it tags their tweets as ‘manipulated media.’ It reminds us about the policies of East India company against the state of Maratha, Nizam, and Mysore.
The East India Company used to support one political power to use against another to secure its objectives in a cyclical manner. When Twitter started targeting tweets of Indian leaders from the political party, then, other parties were quiet. But after some time, tweeter also takes other parties into the center. Twitter even dares to block the then IT minister, Ravishankar Prasad. Next and the recent target of the big tech giant is Rahul Gandhi.
Amazon, an online mall has been destroying local markets. Since it doesn’t need big infrastructures like a physical mall, its cost of operation is low. It supports Amazon to reduce prices and make physical markets and malls uncompetitive. Due to delivery at doorsteps, people engaged in local markets are losing more jobs as compared to gaining in these new developments. Colonial masters also destroyed the local markets during their imperial march to India.
Recently, Australia has reached out to India and other countries, including Canada, France, and the UK, in order to stitch a global coalition against tech giants Google and Facebook. Media companies were in a disadvantaged position since use to get information without getting into the concerned page. Thus, their income gets affected due to less traffic on their pages. It forced Australia to enact the “News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020” which aims to force Google and Facebook to compensate media companies for using their content.
Other nations should also come to the fore against the overarching power of the tech giants. These tech giants have been trying to interfere in sovereignty. Making national laws is not enough. Thus, there is a need for international cooperation to demarcate their boundaries in a democratic setup through consensus.