Big Tech — it’s bad. But don’t take my word for it! Take the word of U.S. representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who went on Yahoo News’ Skullduggery podcast today to talk about, among other things, how an outrageous amount of power is concentrated in the hands of just a few large technology companies.
Asked about her own social-media usage, AOC said that she writes all of her own tweets and Instagram posts, but that she has given up her personal Facebook account (her office still maintains a page for her works as a politician), and does not have an Amazon Alexa-enabled device.
“I personally gave up, which was kind of a big deal because I started my campaign on Facebook, and Facebook was my primary digital organizing tool for a very long time,” she said.
Now she says she mostly tries to take the weekends off from consuming stuff on social media, adding, “I actually think that social media poses a public health risk to everybody. There are amplified impacts for young people … but I think it has a lot of effects on older people. It has effects on everybody: increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, escapism.”
As for what can be done about it, Ocasio-Cortez seems in agreement with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who recently unveiled an aggressive plan to break up larger tech companies, stop tech companies from competing in marketplaces they control, and unwind anti-competitive mergers, such as the one that united Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. “One of the central parts of Warren’s proposal is that these tech companies need to decide what they are. The fact that you are going to be both the platform and the vendor represents a very large antitrust problem,” she noted. “And the fact that they are consolidating and gobbling up 18 different business models in to one is a huge issue.” While declining to endorse any Democratic primary candidate, the representative did praise Warren as “transformational.”
Ocasio-Cortez also briefly touched upon how Twitter enables the president to harass his opponents, referencing the Trump’s recent video intercutting footage of 9/11 with cherry-picked comments from Representative Ilhan Omar. “If a lot of people tweeted that, perhaps Twitter would’ve taken the tweet down as targeted harassment. But perhaps they don’t want to show their hand,” she said, “because they could single-handedly cut the president’s power by 30 to 50 percent overnight if they banned President Trump from the platform. That’s his bully pulpit.” (If you’re interested in seeing what sorts of death threats Omar is receiving as a result of the president’s rage-posting, here’s a collection.)
Summarizing the looming problem of dealing with concentrated tech power, Ocasio-Cortez noted the conventional wisdom that “Congress is fundamentally slow and technology is fundamentally fast.”