[governance] [JNC - Forum] George Soros comments on Google and Facebook at Davos

Mueller, Milton L milton at gatech.edu
Wed Jan 31 13:38:34 EST 2018

I find this attachment to public utility regulation of the media to be fundamentally authoritarian and ahistorical; I see no evidence of real knowledge about what utility regulation is and how it actually works in practice. Whatever happened to civil society’s commitment to free expression?

The Chinese, Russian and Saudi governments all have similar attitudes towards social media and regulate content accordingly. And now, thanks to both left and right wingers in the West, we are getting lots of regulation of social media in the West, to purge it of alleged terrorist accounts, fake news, “security threats,” evil Russian influence operations, and so on. While I do not even use Facebook (imagine that! I have a choice!) and have my own issues with some Google policies, the idea that these companies are huge threats to my well-being and that the answer is control by an all-powerful state strikes me as self-evidently ridiculous.

Civil society groups on the left often fantasize that they will be the ones doing the regulating when they establish forms of centralized control. Got news for you: you will be standing in line behind a lot of other people. The agenda may not play out the way you expect. Before you call for these forms of regulation, let’s see some real economic analysis of how these industries are organized, and perhaps also some signs of effective and well-informed participation in existing forms of multistakeholder internet governance, where at least the environment is open to our participation.

By the way, why is it that when we compare these companies to oil companies no one talks about the state-owned “utility” oil companies in most of the world? Like what you see?

Dr. Milton Mueller
Professor, School of Public Policy
Georgia Institute of Technology

[IGP_logo_gold block_email sig]<http://www.internetgovernance.org/>

From: governance-request at lists.riseup.net [mailto:governance-request at lists.riseup.net] On Behalf Of parminder
Sent: Saturday, January 27, 2018 3:50 AM
To: Ian Peter <ian.peter at ianpeter.com>; Internet governance related discussions <forum at justnetcoalition.org>; bestbits at lists.bestbits.net; governance at lists.riseup.net
Subject: Re: [governance] [JNC - Forum] George Soros comments on Google and Facebook at Davos

On Saturday 27 January 2018 01:09 PM, Ian Peter wrote:
Well worth a read. After a few paragraphs dealing with other substantive issues, Soros hones in on the monopolistic powers of Google and Facebook and the threats they pose.  He doesn't mince words

Yes, he doesn't mince words, but unfortunately those who need to be the real watchdogs, the sectoral or IG civil society, does.... and that is the biggest problem... There is big funding in CS from the same monopolistic powers, and revolving doors with them too... And if one speaks up, there are enough direct and subtle ways to shut her/him up... Hope one day the IG CS will really look back upon itself, introspect and begin doing what its legitimate role is... Ian, as a respected IG CS elder, I'd invite you to begin this exercise, and many of us will cooperate all we can...

In the below quote from Soros's speech, he compares digital monopolies with oil companies -- but lets ask ourselves, can in the environment (or any other social) movement the civil society have the same cosy relationship as the IG CS has with these exploitative digital companies.... But that precise question is most unmentionable, even when everyone knows it is just about emperor's clothes that everyone really knows fully well about, and the corridors are agog with whispers. There could even be repercussions on me for saying this again -- I am already imagining some. ....

Companies earn their profits by exploiting their environment. Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment. This is particularly nefarious because social media companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. This has far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of elections.

And then he says;
They claim they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near- monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access.


Well, it so happens that Just Net Coalition said the same thing exactly 4 years back, in its founding principles<https://justnetcoalition.org/delhi-declaration> .... But the dominant CS was all tch tch . (No matter that most progressive groups from most other areas of global CS joined in.... )  They wont touch that kind of thing with a barge pole.... Most did not collaborate, and till today JNC, while it does a lot of work, it is all voluntary, and with not a single paisa of funding .... This is "structure" my dear....

And hold on, JNC also seem not been able to get even one guy into IGF MAG, even when one or more have always been forwarded as a nominee for CSCG. Often JNC nominee is the only one refused.. Bad guys JNC folks are, right! And then people will clap at Soros's bold speech ,and then conveniently go back to their works...

Sorry for the cynicism, my critique is also entirely structural, merrily and happily made, and no personal offence to anyone please....

- and he doesn't underestimate the societal impacts of what is going on.

Ian Peter


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