Technology is not representative government

Americans view technology companies as a substitute for effective representative government. It shouldn’t be like that.

Since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, many abortion rights advocates have turned their attention to how people’s digital breadcrumbs on apps and the internet can incriminate them if they seek the procedure, and which technology and telecommunications companies, like Facebook, Apple and Verizon could do to protect them.

It was understandable. AT our data collection economy, companies have information about almost everything. This makes them potential sources for law enforcement trying to bring abortionists to justice.

On the other hand, it was yet another example of people bypassing elected officials and instead turning to powerful tech companies to solve their problems with law, politics and accountability.

Many believe that Donald Trump and other Republican officials will not stop make false statements that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. So a lot of attention has been focused on what Twitter, Facebook or YouTube can do to stop these lies from spreading.

Politicians are outraged that some large corporations do not pay any federal income taxes, but instead change in legal deductions and exemptions, they yell at Amazon and other big companies for not paying their fair share of taxes. People get mad at facebook lenient enforcement of gun control regulations – but Facebook has more gun restrictions than most of the real America.

Corporations are the main force in our lives, and several digital superpowers act as coherent global actors at times. on par with governments. They have a responsibility that goes beyond profit, whether one of us likes it or not.

But it’s also strange that both are worried that Big Tech has too much power and sometimes require companies to fix what we don’t like about the world. Corporate action does not replace effective government.

(For more information on the limits of corporate social responsibility, see this piece by Emily Stewart of Vox and This Benjamin Appelbaum, editorial board member of The New York Times.)

I understand why this is happening: many Americans not sure that the government is capable of effectively addressing big issues such as public safety, health care and climate change. Companies are often more accountable and responsive to people’s demands than our elected leaders.

It is also true that tech companies, including Facebook, have fought against government regulation while claiming that it was necessary to solve the problems they helped create.

I keep thinking about talk A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with Zephyr Tichut, a leftist lawyer who is now Special Counsel to the New York Attorney General, about the historical aberration of people who are now petitioning companies for social and political change.

We discussed the mass protest in Britain at the turn of the 19th century, which Tichut wrote about. The protesters, unhappy with the use of enslaved people by sugar producers, demanded that the government abolish slavery, not that companies change their behavior.

American distrust of the government creates strange spectacles. Concerns about the use of corporate data in abortion-related litigation and fear that the Chinese government is using Americans’ data from the TikTok app could be a push for elected leaders and the public. We may have national restrictions in the US on what data companies collect about us and change how easy it is for companies to sell or share that data with just about anyone.

Google said last week that will start deleting location information when people visit certain sensitive places, such as drug treatment centers and abortion providers. TikTok’s parent company based in China tried to stay away from the app from the digital frontiers of China.

America’s lax data restrictions have not yet changed. But TikTok and Google have.


The internet can be pretty damn good sometimes! Our On Tech editor, Hannah Ingber, watched her child discover her amazing taste in interiors. We want to hear from you about how technology has become a window to personal discovery or joy:

My 8 year old son was recently playing on his Chromebook from his remote school days and came across a designer app. I let him download it and he designed his first living room. And then he wanted to design more and more.

A friend told me that her son googled and found out about the upcoming origami convention. he asked his mother about it, and she took him to her. There were mostly adults there, but he had fun.

This experience made me think about how the Internet can open up worlds for children that their parents never imagined or knew.

We’d love to hear from you, our On Tech readers, about a recent tech experience that has helped you or your family broaden your horizons. Please share your stories with us via email ontech@nytimes.com and include “technological wonders” in the subject line. We may publish a selection in the next newsletter.

  • Starting money is hidden: Investments in American technology startups fell 23 percent over the past three months. This is the first funding cut since 2019, my colleague Erin Griffith said, and another sign of a freeze in cash flow in and out of young companies.

  • The online store of dollars has lost its relevance: Wish won the hearts of buyers and some investors who bet that the company’s cheap knick-knacks would make it an e-commerce superstar. But cluttering the internet with ads for Wish products stopped workingand the company sometimes used deceptive experiments that scared off customers, wrote my colleagues Tiffany Hsu and Sapna Maheshwari.

  • Is it possible to recognize a country by the color of its soil? My colleague Kellen Browning has written about people gazing at a random place in the world using Google Street View and Guess as quickly as possible what country he is in. The best players can determine the location in seconds or less.

At a county fair in southwestern Virginia, a woman won over 25 categories in the competition, including for the best sauerkraut, jelly, jam and pie, as well as for the first three places for cookies. People did not rest until they found her.


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