From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- How governments are dealing with the dominance of social media
The article discusses the issue of growing influence of social media companies and response of the governments.
Issues with the growing influence of social media companies
- In the US the last two general elections in 2016 and 2020 have seen strong charges of political manipulation by social media companies.
- But influence of social media companies is not limited ot elections, it envelops a range of domestic and international issues.
- These issuesincludes: the concentration of economic power, individual rights against the state as well as the corporation, disinformation, the rise of digital geopolitics, and global digital governance.
How governments are responding
- Democratic forces need to consult each other and collaborate in developing new norms for managing the digital world.
- In the US, both the left and right are demanding that digital behemoths like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter are brought under greater control if not broken up.
- Last December, the European Commission proposed new rules to promote competition and fairness in digital markets.
- The EU is likely to approve a Digital Markets Act next year.
- Australia has decreed that Google must work out an arrangement with Australian newspapers to pay for the use of their content.
- The current digital giants, however, are not easily amenable to political attack.
- They are bigger than the biggest we have known.
3 Issues with business practices of social media companies
- Governments are now questioning the sharp business practices of the tech giants especially labour rights, taxes and politics.
- While the tech giants have created a lot of new wealth, some of them have sharply squeezed the labour.
- In California, trade unions are battling against the success of Uber and Lyft to turn employees into “contract workers” to deny them multiple benefits.
- Digital giants have been aggressive tax evaders.
- On the political front recently,Twitter and Facebook shut down President Donald Trump’s accounts.
- European leaders raised important questions about social media’s actions against Trump.
- Answer to deal with social media on political front lies in laying down a clear set of obligations and responsibilities for the digital giants.
- This move will help in building digital sovereignty.
- The world’s democracies must get together to discuss global digital governance.
Consider the question “What are the challenges posed by the growing influence of social media companies in the democratic countries?”
As governments push back against big tech, a new challenge presents itself — reining in the growing power of the state in the digital age. The answer lies in democracies modernising their laws to protect freedoms in the era of technological transformation.