There once was a dream of a worldwide electronic web where commerce and communications could be linked, providing wide consumer choice, lower costs, and creating a marketplace of ideas. Anyone with access to the Web could access the common knowledge of the world with the keystroke of ever cheaper and more powerful devices.
It created rapid change and considerable “creative destruction”, as new ways of doing things were adopted and old ways discarded.
To be sure, there were serious instances of hacking and fraud. But not enough to stop most everyone from migrating to the Web and establishing a digital presence.
And humans, being the flawed creatures that we are, developed a number of consumer scams, have engaged in degrading pornographic sites and generated the proliferation of strange and kooky ideas. Such is the price one pays for freedom of expression; you might say.
Many people find communication on the web addictive. It has almost destroyed personal conversation and led to ever shorter attention spans.
But it has allowed citizen journalists to outperform legacy news organizations. Almost any viewpoint or household chore can now be found on YouTube.
The downside of the Web is that it has concentrated the power to dispense information and the power to destroy competition in the hands of a handful of companies and CEOs.
Despite these warning signals, trust in the Web has expanded so that people now place their most precious photographic memories in “the cloud”, their important documents, financial affairs and their personal thoughts. Companies have moved their accounting, marketing, compliance and even their phone services to the Web. All of it is out there to be either hacked or restricted.
Much of our monetary activities now occur on the Web. You can deposit checks on your phone, utilize credit and debit cards, even apply for and obtain home mortgages. There are now more than 2,000 digital currencies worth almost $900 billion dollars.
We even count votes with machines that are wired into the Web. That of course leaves the results open to hacking and manipulation.
This has all proven to be a mixed bag. It would seem, most of us believe the pluses outweigh the minuses.
But in a very vital sense, all of this was based on the idea of the integrity and safety of using the Web.
There are now reasons to seriously doubt there is either safety or integrity in the system that all of life seems to have become dependent upon.
In terms of safety, there are an alarming increase in hacking incidents. Not just hacking into the system of the neighborhood dentist and holding his operations up for ransom, but successful intrusions into some of the most sensitive government operations, such as our nuclear arsenal. There seems to be no place one is really safe on the Web.
It is clear that cyber warfare is now part of the arsenal of most advanced nations and that the Web could be collateral damage to this new form of war.
And now we see the most sinister turn, the use of the Web to control a population, such as the social credit score system in Red China.
The integrity of the system was that it was to be free, with all the flaws caused by human fallibilities.
But the government of China, and especially U.S. tech companies closely associated with that government, have decided that they will dictate what ideas can and cannot be communicated on the Web.
They also can determine what services, sites and other things one may want to do on the Web.
In the case of Parler, Amazon on the same day as the actions taken by Apple, cut off hosting services to a platform that carried news, views and ideas used by Conservatives and Libertarians. They basically put a company out of business.
You can say, well Parler can find another hosting company, there is a free market, right?
Not so fast. It appears that Amazon possesses such economic power that they are intimidating any competitor who wants to come along and pick up the business Amazon is refusing.
This is pure naked, monopoly power on display. If Amazon can do this to Parler, they can do this to anybody.
It would be equivalent to U.S. Steel owning the railroads and refusing to ship steel manufactured by someone else. And, if the steel company that is a competitor to U.S. Steel, found trucking companies willing to take their freight, U.S. Steel comes at the trucking companies and frightens them into declining the business, thus choking their competitor to death.
Liberals and Progressives would object to that, right?
But this wasn’t just about intimidating competitors, it is a deliberate attempt to destroy free speech.
For the sake of freedom of expression, this must be resisted. One man’s insurrection seems to be another man’s demonstration.
The rules are arbitrary and capricious. It is OK to upload child pornography but wrong to go to a site that might support the President of the United States. It is OK for Black Lives Matter to be on the Web (which caused a summer of mayhem, murder, and destruction) but not for Dan Bongino to have a presence.
By denying access, the information on the Web can be converted into a political weapon.
And in strictly a commercial sense, by these actions, these tech monopolies are breaking down the trust necessary for commerce. They can destroy any one they want for commercial or political reasons.
If Big Tech can ban access for me to read Dan Bongino on Parler, may they not deny me access to my digital currency or perhaps even my bank or brokerage account? Will they deny us access to credit because we have a point of view different than they do? What about if we have religious views different from them? Where will the censorious attitude stop?
We know from what is occurring on American college campuses. Any deviation from what Mark Zuckerberg thinks is a “hate crime.”
Will they now set prohibitions as to what magazines and news sites I am permitted to read? Do they surveil what we are doing and report our tendencies to the government? Our government or perhaps the Chinese government?
If safety and integrity break down, with so much of our business and personal affairs now linked to the Web, a loss of confidence in the system in which so many of our commercial activities take place, could do massive and almost instantaneous economic damage.
These tech giants now are not just a political threat. They are a threat to the commercial well being of the world. We just can’t know who or what they might decide to restrict next.
Government regulation would be dangerous. Political parties and these tech behemoths and media companies are already aligned with each other and using their alliance for political means, so evident in the 2020 election.
Besides the political threat, economists call it regulatory capture. Almost always, the industry being regulated, eventually captures the regulatory agencies that do the regulating.
We need free and open competition. We need to break up the monopolies. Application of the anti-trust laws certainly seem applicable to maintain competition and choice.
If this is not done promptly, the dream will fade and be replaced by a nightmare worse than envisioned by George Orwell.
You can do your part.
Write your U.S. Representative and Senators raising concerns about this monopoly-based suppression of speech.
Quit doing business immediately with Amazon, Whole Foods or any of its affiliates.