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    'Tech Giants Need to Grip That They Aren’t Social Media Companies' – Professor

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    The French president said that Facebook and Google were becoming too big to govern. The statement comes as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that he was open to the government regulating tech companies. Sputnik discussed this with Toby Miller, the Sir Walter Murdoch Professor of Cultural Policy Studies at Murdoch University.

    Sputnik: Do you agree that tech giants such as Google and Facebook really are too hard to govern and regulate? Because they are too massive, aren't they? 

    Walter Murdoch: I don't know about too hard but they are very difficult, partially because of their size but not just that, the anti-trust laws of the United States in the late 19th century early 20th broke up similarly large cooperations and also in the telecommunications area in the 80's. It's more because they operate transnationally, we're used to laws that successfully regulate radio, television, newspapers and so on because they've largely operated within national boundaries where sovereignty applies. These things operate transnationally, but having said that, it's only next month that the European Union is launching legislation to protect privacy, which all these entities, Google, Facebook, Amazon, ect. are aware of and are frightened by, and taking measures to deal with. Yes, they are hard to regulate, but not impossible.

    Sputnik: They've got to have some kind of influence on public opinion surely, what's your take on it?

    Walter Murdoch: One of the problems is, as you're aware, that Google and Facebook pick up on news stories that come from Russian newspapers, British newspapers and then represent them as if they were coming from those entities themselves, so not from the Guardian…but from apparently Google or Facebook. That has left open the opportunity for so-called fake news people, outright propagandists, who are not working as journalists in any sense, but are working for corporations seeking to sell their concerns to particular political parties. They masquerade as people doing real reportage, and I think that's where the risk lines. 

    READ MORE: Macron Claims Facebook, Google Becoming 'Too Big', Expert Says It's Too Late

    We don't know how great the risk is, it's still unproven as to what may or may not have been regarding the Kremlin's role in that election, and similarly we don't know what was the role of Cambridge Analytica in the Brexit referendum in the UK. But it is very clear that there is great risk in the collapse of what you might call banner journalism. In other words, if you read the Daily Express, or if you read something by Reuters, you might have thought it was biased but you knew it was written by journalists who believed they are operating independently.

    Sputnik: Do you think the human race, moving forward, is going to be more open to this, or are we going to be buying into this information continually then?

    Walter Murdoch: Those people who spend a lot of time worrying about, thinking about political issues and the nature of their societies and the good of the human race are probably very well aware of the problem but vast numbers of people are just living their lives. So when they tune into their Facebook feed and they see what appears to be outrageous revelations about Vladimir Putin or Theresa May, that's what strikes them and they don't take the time, nor may they have the time if they are ordinary working people, to ponder where this information really comes from. Of course, ramifying that problem is that contemporary journalism is under threat more generally that news organizations are putting fewer resources into the kind of real investigative,  digital research, we've become accustomed to as part of a liberal democracy.

    Sputnik: Is there any way to regulate these tech giants?

    Walter Murdoch: We definitely need more competition, we need the break up of these big entities, they need to be seen for what they are, they are not social media, they are communications companies just like AT&T, or Verizon, or NBC, or Radio Sputnik and communications companies have special privileges and responsibilities in terms of the knowledge they give the society. The way to regulate them is to have arms length statutory authority so they are not just tools of the government but have independence and to ensure that there is again independent judicial review, you don't need to cut out the state entirely but you do need to break up the state so it's not just the government and the politicians but rather statutory bodies and the courts in the same way you'd break up the companies themselves. The first step is to force these guys to recognize they are communications entities and with that privilege comes responsibilities.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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