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Amazon escalates hostilities between big tech and politicians – good

US politicians are increasingly grandstanding in opposition to technology giants and it looks like they’ve decided it’s time to fight back.

We reported on Facebook’s preparations for yet another grilling from US politicians last week. We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch the six hour grill-athon, but the title of the YouTube video tells you everything you need to know about its agenda.

In essence the event presented two main opportunities for the politicians involved. Firstly they got a chance to bully social media into doing even more to censor their ideological opponents and secondly they got to do their usual grandstanding apparently designed to create the impression that they’re robustly representing their constituents.

As ever the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter came well prepared and easily fended off the rhetorical blows, albeit in their own ways: Zuckerberg robotic, Pichai boring, Dorsey bored. There was some sign, however, of growing exasperation at these attempts at political theatre, which always seem to leave everyone dissatisfied.

One of the techniques some of the politicians used to appear tough was to interrupt evasive answers with demands for a simple yes or no. Twitter’s Dorsey used his own platform to indicate just how much contempt he had for this in the following tweet.

Perhaps jealous of all the attention congress was getting, at around the same time as the hearing some US Senators decided to have a pop at Amazon on Twitter by jumping on the back of recent negative labour-relations publicity. The difference this time is that Amazon decided to publicly fight back, first against Senator Warren and then again Senator Sanders, both of whom claim to be socialists.

There are several reasons why it’s good that these corporations are publicly pushing back. So long as politicians perceive big corporations as passive punch-bags they will continue to indulge themselves by grandstanding instead of actually trying to find practicable solutions.

The best way to resolve these matters of public interest is through public discussion, in which all stakeholders need to participate in good faith, which obviously includes the companies in question. This also creates the additional public benefit of sometimes forcing the protagonists to reveal themselves.

It’s hard to tell how well Amazon treats its employees but the attempt to unionise at one of its sites seems to have had a positive effect on that dynamic. But don’t be fooled by its calls for a higher federal minimum wage – that comes over more like a bid to raise the cost of doing business for its competitors.

US politicians have a sudden fondness for the words misinformation and disinformation, which they use interchangeably in their bid to force politically motivated censorship on the internet. Social media companies already censor far too much for our liking, so it’s good to see them standing up for themselves in this case. We sincerely doubt they’re so robust in the face of criticism from their advertisers, however.


3 comments

  1. Avatar John Gault 29/03/2021 @ 3:42 pm

    And so you lost me at “We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch the six hour grill-athon”. Lazy journalism …

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 29/03/2021 @ 5:06 pm

      LOL – why don’t you give us a summary keen boy?

  2. Avatar Dr. Scott Kingsley 29/03/2021 @ 11:21 pm

    That’s it, keep poking the bull. If tech thinks it can keep censuring and stomping on our rights then the day will come when Congress will stop them. I guess no one remembers what happened to AT&T.

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