From award-winning journalist and author of the “methodical, earnest, and insightful” (The Guardian) Panic Attack, an examination of recent kneejerk calls to regulate Big Tech from both sides of the aisle.
Not so long ago, we embraced social media as a life-changing opportunity to connect with friends and family all across the globe. Today, the pendulum of public opinion is swinging in the opposite direction as Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and similar sites are being accused of corrupting our democracy, spreading disinformation, and fanning the flames of hatred. We once marveled at the revolutionary convenience of ordering items online and having them show up on our doorsteps, sometimes overnight. Now we fret about Amazon outsourcing our jobs overseas, or building robots to do them for us.
Here, with insightful analysis and in-depth research, Robby Soave explores some of the biggest issues animating both the right and the left: bias, censorship, disinformation, privacy, screen addiction, crime, and more. Far from polemical, Tech Panic is grounded in interviews with insiders at companies like Facebook and Twitter, as well as expert analysis by both tech boosters and skeptics—from Mark Zuckerberg to Josh Hawley. Readers will learn not just about the consequences of Big Tech, but also the consequences of altering the ecosystem that allowed tech to get big. Offering a fresh and crucial perspective on one of the biggest influences of the 21st century, Robby Soave seeks to stand athwart history and yell, Wait, are we sure we really want to do this?
Reason editor Soave (Panic Attack) argues in this lucid if one-sided defense of Big Tech that increased regulation of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets will do more harm than good. Contending that the "decentralization of authority" brought about by social media has helped people to exercise their freedoms and made U.S. democracy more participatory than it was a generation ago, Soave expresses concerns that a more intensive fight against disinformation will end up stifling free speech. He cites the rise of Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement as examples of how social media provides people with unprecedented opportunities to organize and effect change, contends that allegations of false information spread by Russian agents on Facebook altering the 2016 U.S. presidential election are overblown, and claims that existing regulatory efforts, including the $5.7 million fine levied in February 2020 against TikTok's predecessor for illegally harvesting data, are enough to hold Silicon Valley accountable. Though he doesn't fully reckon with the ways Facebook, Google, and Amazon have stifled competition, Soave raises worthy free speech concerns. This sober account strikes a persuasive note of caution.