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Big Revolution - The geopolitics of big tech

Welcome to a 100% April Fool-free newsletter! (And that's no joke). – Martin at Big Revolution
April 1 · Issue #386 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to a 100% April Fool-free newsletter! (And that’s no joke).
– Martin at Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Saudi Arabia stole data from Jeff Bezos’ smartphone, according to Bezos’ security consultant. Bezos owns the Washington Post, which ran articles by Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered by Saudi Arabia last year. The country has been linked to the leak of sensitive information about Bezos’ romantic life.
  • Mark Zuckerberg wants a global internet regulation framework. He set out his ideas in a (paywalled) Washington Post article. A cynic might say that since global frameworks are unlikely to ever happen, he’s just making noises to look like Facebook is open to regulation, while setting the bar so high he can always complain about whatever actually does happen.
  • Facebook is rolling out the ability to see why an item has shown up in your News Feed.Why Am I Seeing This?’ has the potential to be very useful in helping users understand how the News Feed works.
  • The UK government has delayed its controversial new rules around age verification for adult sites, Sky News reports. I wouldn’t be surprised if the project was quietly mothballed for being unworkable.
  • Sega will release a mini version of the Mega Drive (Genesis in the USA) in September, featuring 40 titles from the classic 16-bit console’s library.
The big thought
Credit: chuttersnap on Unsplash
The geopolitics of big tech
Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with Donald Trump. “[Pichai] stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military,” Trump tweeted. “[We] also discussed political fairness and various things that Google can do for our Country.”
Sounds like a straightforward meeting, right? I mean, the idea that Trump thought Google would be secretly working for the Chinese military against the Americans is a bit weird, but okay.
But then consider the current controversy around Huawei’s alleged ties to the Chinese government. Huawei’s technology is key to the communications networks in many countries. That’s not to mention its consumer hardware, which is increasingly popular too. That’s enough to make governments around the world nervous about how China could secretly exploit Huawei’s position to its advantage.
Huawei’s international footprint and position deep within the networks of rival countries to the Chinese is just one example of how global tech companies present a potential beachhead for their home governments.
If Google is “totally committed to the U.S. Military,” what about the presence it has around the world? Could Google’s presence in the country and access to deep, detailed data about its citizens become a security risk in the case of a conflict? Google will of course say no, but the question is worth asking – if not now then for the future.
And then there’s the point that Google had to state its allegiance to the US military at all. Google and many other large tech companies are large and well-resourced enough to act as quasi-states of their own. They have influence around the world, and the ability to act subtly – but powerfully – in their own interests. In a future global conflict, the politics of tech giants could be an important factor in the direction events took.
A lot is made of the power big tech companies have to affect our lives, but we’re probably still a long way from seeing just how far it will go.
One big read
Why smart people are more likely to believe fake news
A timely share for April Fools Day. I had to read it carefully to make sure it wasn’t some elaborate meta April Fool.
One big tweet
This tweet is part of a fascinating thread about the feud between PewDiePie and Bollywood network T-Series over the position of most-subscribed-to channel on YouTube. Click through to read the whole thing. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for PewDiePie.
Taylor Lorenz
PewDiePie, one of the long standing most massive creators on the platform, represents “old” YouTube before it went corporate. Fans aren’t just fighting for him they’re fighting for that version of YT culture to win and beat out big corporate interests/channels
7:29 PM - 31 Mar 2019
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow, when I can hopefully be at least 10% less wary of everything I put in this newsletter.
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