Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, George Soros issued some blistering comments aimed at Facebook and Google.
I’ll admit, it stopped me in my tracks when I saw a headline claiming ultra-liberal George Soros slammed Facebook and Google calling them a ‘menace’ to society and ‘obstacles to innovation’.
So, what did Soros say?
Here are some excerpts:
“Social-media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes. They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide. This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents. There is a similarity between internet platforms and gambling companies. Casinos have developed techniques to hook gamblers to the point where they gamble away all their money, even money they don’t have.
“Something very harmful and maybe irreversible is happening to human attention in our digital age. Not just distraction or addiction — social-media companies are inducing people to give up their autonomy. The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called “the freedom of mind.” There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences. People without the freedom of mind can be easily manipulated. This danger does not loom only in the future — it already played an important role in the 2016 US presidential elections.
“But there is an even more alarming prospect on the horizon. There could be an alliance between authoritarian states and these large, data-rich IT monopolies that would bring together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with an already developed system of state-sponsored surveillance. This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined.”
“The owners of the platform giants consider themselves the masters of the universe, but in fact, they are slaves to preserving their dominant position.”
“The internet monopolies have neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions. That turns them into a menace, and it falls to the regulatory authorities to protect society against them.”