Data protection, fake news and the appointment of Nick Clegg, Facebook, it’s political.
Facebook has hired Nick Clegg as its Head of Global Policy and Communications. It is a move that indicates that the corporation is taking the first steps at attempting to understand the political and legal implications it faces as its platform continues to play a pivotal role in how global issues play out. Not to mention the urgent need to avoid further tarnishing their public image and gaining the distrust of their users.
From the perspective of the government, having an intermediary between them and the company is a necessity because let’s face it, Cambridge Analytica showed that government does not understand the tech world and its far reaching implications.
The points above serve as evidence that the political nature of the large tech companies can no longer be denied. They are shaping politics in new ways- digital political rallying, fake news, data security, and the rise of far right voices countered by just as many liberal laments.
It has never been a secret that these companies wield great power, what this move proves is that they are just getting smarter about how they will negotiate that power.
Which comes to the appointment of Clegg, former deputy Prime Minister of one of the most influential world powers. As a key figure in pro-Remain campaign in Brexit, he is one of the key names in one of the most fraught negotiations in the EU’s history. He is also a former member of the European Parliament and was a European commission trade negotiator. So Clegg certainly has the connections and access required of the political ambassador of Facebook, especially as they face calls for increased regulation in Europe.
What has come into question is Clegg’s ethics. One of his rallying cries as deputy PM was to crack down on big companies who avoid paying taxes, but evidently he is now on the other side. Facebook only paid £7.4 million in taxes despite racking up £1.3 billion in British sales last year. Should we be alarmed that politics can so easily be bought into corporations for a fat annual paycheck and the allure of influence that the digital behemoths promise? Well, yes. Ethics play a huge part in the debate surrounding technology. If you take only data security into question, there are a myriad of ethical concerns: What is the value placed on user data? How will it be used? Who profits off it? By who’s labour is the data created so that corporations can target potential customers more effectively? And also how can this data be manipulated for political gains, and what are the implications?
A final thought, is on the global effects. What will be the fate of those populations from less influential governments when Facebook wields greater political might? Are there geopolitical consequences yet to be considered? And if the political needs of Western super powers are now being represented on a global digital platform, how will a more global representation of political thought be taken into account to avoid fears of a new and perhaps wider (and more rapidly) spreading cultural imperialism.
What are your views on Facebook’s latest appointment? Let us know in the comments below.