Tim Cook wants companies to take responsibility on the internet for their “chaos factories.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook warned Silicon Valley companies in a Sunday speech at Stanford.
He said breaches of data and violations of privacy threatened freedom. A growing chorus of Silicon Valley personalities has been speaking up in recent years against the pervasive misinformation and toxic climate of social media.
Cook, while talking to Stanford graduates, touched on several issues that plague the tech industry, including privacy violations, data leaks and hacks, as well as spreading fake news and hate speech.
How will technology companies take responsibility?
While he never mentioned any company by name, of course, but alluded to problems previously dealt with by companies such as Facebook, YouTube and now-defunct company Theranos. The internet has changed a lot in the last decade, and some executives and tech pundits are worried about its trajectory.
When major BigTech companies leaders speak up, you kind of have to listen. He basically said, “We see it now every day, with every breach of data, every breach of privacy, every blind eye turned to hate speech. Fake news poison our national conversation. Too many people seem to think that good intentions excuse harmful outcomes.
Although he never mentioned any company by name, of course, but referred to issues previously dealt with by companies such as Facebook, YouTube and now-defunct company Theranos. Over the past decade, the internet has changed a lot, and some executives and tech experts are worried about its trajectory.
When the leaders of major BigTech companies speak up, you kind of have to listen. He basically said, “We see it now every day, with every breach of data, every breach of privacy, every blind eye turned to hate speech. Fake news poison our national conversation. Too many people seem to think that good intentions excuse harmful results.
YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook are like factories of Chaos
He continued: “It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this, but if you’ve built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos.” While YouTube and Facebook are globally popular platforms, they’ve scaled so big that they’ve become almost impossible to regulate, especially since the AI required to monitor them properly is realistically a few years away.
When foreign agents and cybersecurity professionals can arm algorithms to sow unrest and political influence, you have to wonder if Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are contributing as much to the social good as they are potentially causing havoc, misinformation and collective chaos. Advertising is not a neutral battleground, it is a pay-to-play mechanism where Facebook can actually profit from chaos.
If you know anything about how WhatsApp is used in places like India, you know the meaning of online chaos. Facebook has lost trust but not that many users, so it seems “taking responsibility” is an expense that’s not always worth it. There’s no legal liability for CEOs in the actions of their companies, so capitalism is pretty flawed when it comes to moral or ethical accountability or the collective damages of your platform.
It’s the latest in a series of speeches from Cook in which he has has discussed his views on data security while criticizing Google, Facebook, and other technology companies for their approach to user data and privacy, usually without naming those companies. While Apple sides on the rule of law, they aren’t exactly global leaders in privacy compliance with how they have contributed to surveillance with beacon technology and an app store full of offenders.
While the DOJ takes BigTech more seriously and regulating BigTech has become a topic among Wall Street shareholders, it is interesting to see Silicon Valley personalities talking about corporate social responsibility and stopping the chaos factories.
Cook told the new Stanford graduates that digital surveillance threatened innovation and would have “stopped Silicon Valley before it started.” Nevertheless, duopolies in advertising and the cloud mean Silicon Valley startups mostly have a fresh crop of IPOs to cheer about in 2019, while actual innovation has looked rather dismal in recent years.
Monopolies Stunt Innovation
A climate of monopolies in apps and emerging tech means more innovation globally is now likely to come out of Asia and places like Israel than Silicon Valley.
- Google and Facebook are a duopoly in advertising.
- Facebook has a monopoly on social media apps and chat.
- Google with YouTube has a monopoly in vlogs and user-generated-content video.
- AWS and Microsoft have a duopoly on the cloud.
The reality is it’s not just chaos machines but a lack of free competition in a duopolistic like atmosphere that is decaying American innovation. Apple’s own track record in innovation in the last decade can be argued to be rather poor.
Still Tim Cook brings up an important message to young people.
Stanford graduates are pretty likely to end up at companies like Facebook or LinkedIn. However Facebook has been having more trouble landing talent in recent times. Graduates think twice about Facebook’s sketchy reputation and suspect leadership.
“If we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold and even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human,” Cook said in the commencement speech.
The rules have been changed by a more toxic internet, an internet where privacy invasion and data breaches have become the norm, rather than the exception. Congress, Governments, regulators and legislation do not seem to be able to keep up with how quickly the internet changes.
This bodes poorly for how the world will be able to regulate artificial intelligence and its impact as a whole. When we live in a world without accountability and with poor leadership in technology, we are all prone to living on a more dangerous and exploitative internet.