Big Tech is failing. The future of democracy depends on what happens next

Jeremy Gilbert

Alex Williams

The Musk-Twitter apocalypse is a symptom of a much bigger crisis. To avoid a bleak future we have to bring the big platforms under our control

Within the tech world, the most significant development of the past two years has been the collapse of the profit-making model described by Shoshana Zuboff as “surveillance capitalism”. This system, effectively devised by Google in the early 2000s, has seen enormous profits accrue to those platforms able to command large populations of data-generative and attention-possessing users, and even more to those able to efficiently organise a market for targeted advertising.

After Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter for $44bn, many people fear for its survival. The world’s richest man has laid off more than half the social media platform’s total staff, botched the rollout of new features such as ‘Twitter Blue’, leading to a deluge of false ‘verified’ accounts, and allowed numerous banned users back onto the platform.

Yet while the Musk-Twitter apocalypse has been unique in its sheer chaos, the platform is far from alone in being a tech giant exhibiting signs of commercial and organisational failure. Meta Systems Inc, the owner of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has laid off 11,000 workers and lost more than 70% of its total market capitalisation over the course of the last few months. Even Amazon and Google, previously stalwarts of the platform economy, have seen significant layoffs and reduced outgoings.

Meanwhile, alleged future revenue streams such as cryptocurrency, blockchain, web 3, VR, AR, and quantum computing have all either crashed or faced significant difficulties in demonstrating their value to potential customers. Big Tech, the leading edge of the global economy for the last 20 years, is looking increasingly in deep trouble. What on earth is going on here?…

Alexandre Koyré: The Political Function of the Modern Lie (1943) / John Keane: Lying, journalism and democracy

Karl Marx in the Anthropocene: the post-capitalist, green manifesto captivating Japan

Defying capitalism and socialism, Kumarappa and Gandhi had imagined a decentralised Indian economy – Venu Madhav Govindu & Deepak Malghan

The Pegasus Project: Leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon / Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism