The title of this one by Jonathan Taplin extends to How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. Obviously, it was too long for the post title!! Taplin is an American writer and film producer and has produced TV documentaries and films. He has written about how the digital economy has impacted well-established industries of music, advertising, news, journalism, and filmmaking etc. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are the three tech giants that have monopolized the digital world in one way or the other and have caused havoc and/or substantial change to quite a few industries.
The book talks about the early years of all the three companies and how they grew to become the monsters they are today. There are interesting anecdotes about Zuckerberg’s association with Peter Thiel and him being an early investor in Facebook, Google’s employees working for the US government and vice versa, Facebook’s Buzzfeed and Huffingpost ruthlessly crushing the news market and its tremendous power to influence mass opinions (US Presidential Election). Amazon has destroyed a huge section of the bookseller’s market in an unprecedented way. The book is loaded with such stuff!
We all know how much data we have provided to these platforms, knowingly or unknowingly, and when properly analyzed and used(or misused), it has great powers! Neither of these tech giants creates any data, but they pretty much decide how we use the internet. Jonathan has given specific examples of how the creators of this data, be it music or books or a news piece, have suffered and perished because of the internet economy. The fraction of the revenue generated by youtube or Amazon transferred to the original creators is astonishingly low.
There are heaps of references to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of individualism and how that is reflected in these companies’ founders thought process. It also makes you think about the ideas of Libertarianism v/s Capitalism. Founders of al these companies took bold steps and created software thinking “Who will stop me?” and they never sought any permissions! And they all seem to agree to Peter Thiel’s words, viz. ”I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible”
The book might not have any eye openers for you if you have read a bit about these companies but it’s still mostly an interesting read. I got a lot of things for follow up reading 🙂