This article was originally published by David Tvrdon in his FWIW newsletter. ‘For what it’s worth’ (or FWIW) is a weekly tech, media, and audio digest curated by David. We enjoy it and encourage you to try it out as well. You can learn more and subscribe here.
The technology news cycle for the past few years has been roughly the same. Big Tech companies kept making new products (either physical or digital), people kept spending more and more money on them.
Meanwhile, damning reports of all kinds of missteps appeared only to cause temporary resentment.
Apple generated a lot of headlines with their decision to combat child sexual abuse in a manner (scanning people’s photos) not previously discussed with a wider range of professionals and security researchers, only to postpone the rollout.
Yet the company sparked even more headlines by introducing new iPhones, iPads and a new generation of its smartwatch.
Facebook introduced their Ray-Ban smart glasses to a mixed media reception, yet many agreed the choice not to have Facebook branding anywhere and leave the design entirely to Ray-Ban was the right call and might help sales. Facebook already has a winning product, its Oculus Quest 2 VR headset praised by many and quickly approaching the 10 million goal set by Zuckerberg.
However, we keep reading revelation after revelation of the internal misconduct at the company when it comes to users’ health and safety and the company’s profits. The latest scandal is being fueled by the Facebook Files investigation by the Wall Street Journal based on a big trove of leaked internal documents – WSJ claims it’s the biggest FB leak yet.
Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands. That is the central finding of a Wall Street Journal series, based on a review of internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management.
The stories published in the investigation until now (more are probably to come) do not necessarily bring new revelations, it’s more about the confirmation of the things we kept hearing and reading about before.
Still, reading how Instagram is damaging for teen girls and the company has known about it and done little, or that an algorithm change rewarded negative, angrier posts to boost engagement, makes you wonder how much more evidence is needed to make these things stop.
South Korea recently fined Google $177 million for hampering the development of rivals to its Android operating system, in other words, the company is said to have impeded development of competing software.
And it’s not just the “old players” having problems. The European Union has opened two inquiries into the Chinese-owned short-video platform TikTok related to the processing of children’s personal data and transfers of personal data to China.
It almost seems like the cost of quick upscaling is riddled with mismanagement for the sake of growth and user safety.
Governments all over the world are stepping up and trying to police the biggest technology players. The question remains whether the right kind of regulation will come, whether it will help or just cement the status quo with little room for competition to grow.