Home / Corporations against the democratic state, not democracy versus autocracy, is the main battle

Corporations against the democratic state, not democracy versus autocracy, is the main battle

4 min read
While Western policymakers debate how to regulate big tech and control carbon emissions, China uses force to do the same.
From Washington to Beijing to Canberra and Sydney, there's a thread through events of the last week linked to one of the bigger geopolitical conflicts of our time.

In Canberra yesterday, Scott Morrison threatened, in words sopping wet with hypocrisy, to regulate anonymous "cowards" on social media. "You can expect us to be leaning even further into this," he warned.

While it's not exactly up there with welfare crackdowns, Morrison is a perennial cracker-downerer on social media, announcing crackdowns in March 2019 and May 2019 and September 2020 and saying satanic forces used social media in April this year.

But his comments, and the froth-mouthed ranting of Barnaby Joyce against social media, resonated more in a week when a whistleblower exposed Facebook's obsession with profit over minimising harm in the US, and an expressed willingness by both sides in Congress to regulate social media — something social media companies themselves have taken to calling for.

Then again Democrats and Republicans have been talking about breaking up big tech for years now without noteworthy action. That may relate to the $65 million tech companies spent last year lobbying in Washington.

Here there's the entirely different problem that it is traditional media companies that hold the lobbying power and have literally written the government's policy to extort Google and Facebook. Like fossil fuels, like financial services, like hospitality and gaming, the media in Australia buys the policy outcomes they want — except they pay in airtime and headlines, not in donations (though Nine, of course, helps to fundraise for the Liberal Party as well).

In China, the issue of the regulation of big tech isn't the subject of lobbying…
Bernard Keane
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