The tide is finally shifting in Silicon Valley. The same companies once heralded as crusaders of a bright future are increasingly being seen as hoarders of vast, unchecked power. Franklin Foer, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, has been questioning the intentions of corporations like Facebook and Google for years. On this episode of Radio Motherboard, I talk with Foer about his new book, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech.
Foer, who is the former editor of The New Republic (which was purchased by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes), chronicles how large tech corporations have largely taken control of knowledge and information online. Without considering the tradeoffs, we've given our data to Google, Facebook, and other companies. We did so because of the irresistible convenience they provide, but until recently, haven't thought about at what cost.
Foer's book couldn't have come at a better time. Facebook just discovered evidence Russian propagandists purchased ads on the platform during the 2016 presidential election, then soon after, ProPublica documented how its algorithm allowed advertisers to target groups such as "jew haters." The two incidents have prompted a new call for the social network to be regulated.
Google continues to fight a massive antitrust lawsuit in Europe. On his conservative Fox News show, Tucker Carlson said recently that the company "has more power than any company in history has ever had." Even former Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon thinks Facebook and Google should be regulated like public utilities.
Over the last two years, Foer has mulled over the dark underpinnings of the most powerful corporations in the world in order to write his book. We're now just catching up to him.