Tech Against Trump

Digital issues entered the global media focus this week, as the coverage of President Trump’s immigration ban developed day-by-day. On Tuesday, a long list of tech companies announced they would meet and discuss filing an “amicus brief” (unsolicited lawsuit) to push back on the executive order. While recent court rulings may have reduced the urgency of such an initiative, it is easy to sympathize with the sentiment. Many Silicon Valley-profiles are immigrants, including Google co-Founder Sergey Brin, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and activist investor Peter Thiel. Netopia agrees with the idea that more perspectives bring greater creativity, that business needs openness and that the internet has made the world more global, so in particular for technology companies, nationalism is weird.

But while the initiative is commendable, the question is if these same companies may be part of the problem. Advanced social media strategies, tailored to individual users, playing filter bubbles to its own advantage was a big part of the Trump campaign. Psychography is the operative word and the company in this case is called Cambridge Analytica. Another term that became popular with the Trump presidency is “fake news”. Assumingly, fake news contributed to a media climate where traditional reporting was more difficult. But it may not be Russian hackers that is the biggest problem. Belarusian-American writer Evgeny Morozov (another immigrant!) says the problem is not fake news, but how the internet giants’ algorithms are set up. It is integral to the ad-funded, data-driven, freenomics of social media.

While it’s great to see democratic commitment in Silicon Valley, perhaps their energy is better used focusing on their own business practices than legal action.