‘Facebook model’ will undermine fight against global inequality - say campaigners

Sunday, 20 May, 2018

Britain set to push for Big Tech’s demands in trade deals

“Big Tech is an extractive industry. Just like oil and gas, it needs to be regulated”

A new briefing released today warns that the power of ‘Big Tech’ corporations like Google, Amazon, and Facebook pose a serious threat to the fight against global poverty and inequality. Campaigners at Global Justice Now warn that this power is set to grow through so-called ‘e-commerce’ chapters in new trade deals, which threaten to hinder developing countries from building thriving tech sectors of their own. They further criticise the British government which has announced they will be a key proponent of this push in post-Brexit trade deals.

The e-commerce agenda is being used by big tech corporations to cement their power across the whole world. The agenda, already partially embedded in trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership, includes:

  • Ensuring Big Tech companies don’t need to set up a local presence in developing countries – undermining the ability of governments to regulate and tax them
  • Banning technology transfer requirements that help poorer countries develop their own infrastructure and services without having to pay foreign corporations.
  • Keeping source codes secret – which makes it more difficult for government regulators to ensure products are safe and locks countries into buying replacements and servicing from the same company
  • Preventing countries from localising data flows – in effect meaning national privacy laws become meaningless and companies can move and use personal data at will

As digital services increasingly dominate the economy, these policies will undermine the ability of developing countries to develop their own tech sectors outside the control of global monopolies, campaigners warn  
Alex Scrivener of Global Justice Now said:
 “With the scandal over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, we all understand the dangers which the current big tech model poses to our privacy, and indeed to a free, informed and democratic society. What is less well known is that this same model poses a threat to the fight against global poverty and inequality.
“As the digital economy takes over more and more aspects of our lives, the power of Big Tech companies, largely based in the US, will grow. And if they get to write the trade rules of tomorrow, we will see increasing amounts of capital flow out of developing countries and into the coffers of these super rich corporations.

“Supporters of these rules like to pretend that they are in favour of more freedom online. But actually all they want is more control. These rules help hand over the keys to the future global economy to a few Silicon Valley giants. This must be stopped.
“Whether you’re an Uber driver in India paying part of your hard-earned income to subsidise Uber executives in Silicon Valley, or a developing world government trying to develop a local tech industry, these e-commerce rules pose a grave threat
“Just like the big ‘robber barons’ at the end of the 19th century, the power of big tech companies is now so great that they are beyond effective control by regulators. Big Tech is an extractive industry. Just like oil and gas, it needs to be regulated.”