Home > Freedom > Facebook and Google have an agenda: it’s called “money”

Facebook and Google have an agenda: it’s called “money”

I just listened to a story on NPR wherein James Lewis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies discussed the new role that technologies are playing in the uprising in North Africa and the Middle East. He discussed it from an interesting angle, that of the U.S. State Department dealing with (supposedly) non-national entities as political bodies. Sound familiar? He discussed how the state department basically sees these corporations and software as tools for spreading American ideals. I agree that’s basically true, and I’m glad to see Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google doing their jobs to help spread freedom. However, he made at least two provocative statements that show he’s ignoring how these tools relate to another core American value: greed.

Google, Facebook and Youtube are “neutral”

The difference, Mr. Lewis states, is that the software provided by these corporations is politically neutral. It’s just a tool. It’s just something that people use and what they do with it is entirely their choice. I suppose this is because Facebook, Google, and Co. give their users the absolute freedom to use their software for whatever means the users see fit. Right?

Wrong. Google, Facebook and other powerful corporations are purveyors of proprietary software: people have the freedom and the ability to use the software (Freedom 0), but they don’t have the freedom to know what the software is actually doing, they don’t have the freedom to adapt the software for their own use, and they don’t have the freedom to know what Google and Facebook are doing with the data they provide. Proprietary software is not neutral: it is always a tool to further the agenda of the proprietary software developer. In the case of Microsoft, that agenda is to keep people using Microsoft operating systems on local computer systems, so that people will buy the only software that works on it (other Microsoft software). In the case of Google, Facebook and other online service providers, the purpose is to impress their shareholders and bombard you with advertising. More than that Google, Facebook et al. have a political agenda that they are serving.

Facebook, Google et al. have no political agenda

This was the most egregious statement I have heard on the radio in a while. It’s enough to make me stop listening. In fact, I did turn off the radio and put a record on. Just as preposterous as the idea that these software providers merely provide neutral tools is the idea that they have no political agenda. Any guesses? They have a political agenda called money! Their political agenda is “keep Facebook profitable,” as in “we will get you elected and you will pass laws that will help us in the marketplace. Quid pro quo.” Richard Stallman always reminds audiences that laws are for sale in the United States, but that’s not what we teach children in school, so I feel like people who say what Mr. Lewis said are doing a disservice to America by propping up that illusion. If people don’t know that’s how “the system” works, they’ll never do anything to change it. Scumbag politicians like John Edwards come along and pretend to want to do something about it every two years, and people believe them, elect them and they do the same thing as everybody else.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this:

Corporate greedmongers having dinner with the President of the United States

I also find it interesting that he spoke of Wikileaks as having a political agenda: to hurt America, versus Facebook and Google having no political agenda. Does he think Facebook and Google wouldn’t hurt America if it served their needs? I believe that if overthrowing the government served their needs, the danger is that it would happen. It happened in Germany.

My main point is that Facebook and Google have an obligation to their shareholders to make money. They have a different moral compass than most Americans: greed is good. They really believe that. They believe that whatever makes them money is good for the world. They believe that when they make money, they spread morality through the world. That’s why they are pumping up these uprisings as “the Facebook revolution” when their role is probably minimal. They have some role, but they are not responsible. If you don’t believe my statements, believe that I’ve seen this happen on a smaller scale when instead of corporations, I saw physicians take lots of money in the good moral belief that if they took that money, they could help their patients better. It didn’t matter who was giving them the money, or what those people asked for in return.

These corporations most certainly have a diplomatic agenda, which is to support revolution if it brings money to Facebook, either through recognition or through direct profit. They are not neutral, unwittingly good, parties. These companies support revolution whether it supports the United States or not: they support radical Islam as long as it brings them money right now. Then they’ll support the CIA when it asks them for the personal information of those “jihadists,” even if those jihadists are just innocent Arab-Americans.

Wake up and smell the corporate greed people!

  1. artur
    March 8, 2011 at 11:08

    several well made points. i usually try not to cite Germany as an example, ever, it tends to weaken arguments that do not directly deal with the historical point in reference. Also interesting how greed applies when an enterprise starts with the following idea, “do not be evil”- apparently a slogan for google in its early days. Wonder how much of it still holds. It is interesting what will happen in the future, however right now nothing in google/facebook/twitter/youtube/groupon/paypal/ history has lead me to believe them to be a evil. They are after money, and you can not make money if your key demographic (people) hates you. It must be kept in mind that all of the above trade in information, although powerful it foes fail to compare to physical products (water, food, metals, just a few things that when gone will make people refocus from their daily pokes and updates).


    • March 8, 2011 at 12:45

      I don’t believe they’re evil. I don’t even really believe that greed is evil. In some cases, greed is what gets the job done. However, the idea that (a) corporations have no political agenda is just ridiculous and (b) the idea that greed is moral seems to have infected society. Even in discussion of software freedom I often hear people evaluating ideals based on whether they will make money, as in “Companies will make a little more money if they trample this little bit of user freedom, which will be a good thing in the long run for freedom.”

      That’s called “businessism.” I don’t think that’s a good yardstick for society; we shouldn’t be teaching kids in school about how to be the best customers for corporations like this; we should be teaching them moral values. When you have kids it will be easier for you to think in those terms (although your wife’s job probably makes it easy). We just generally shouldn’t be evaluating success in moral and human terms with greed.


  2. March 9, 2011 at 18:03

    If you doubt the severity of any of what I’m saying here, check out Eben Moglen’s keynote speech from FOSDEM this year. I love when he points out that the political futures of many people in the Arab world depend on “a guy in California.” He also says he doesn’t want somebody making a call to others for freedom from an iPhone. Watch it!


  3. AF
    January 16, 2012 at 09:13

    Hi, I came to your blog via the org-mode connection, and liked this article a lot as well. Regarding the observation, “… he spoke of Wikileaks as having a political agenda: to hurt America, versus Facebook and Google having no political agenda.” This is especially egregious given Google et al.’s cooperation in maintaining the Great Firewall of China (which I believe still continues despite Google’s empty threat last year to withdraw from China, which in turn generated so much pro-Google pseudo-patriotic hot air in America). Keep thinking.


    • January 16, 2012 at 22:27

      Yes, they definitely fall on the side of CYA, whether it’s appeasing China, or appeasing others who want them to not appease the CCP. They are therefore politicians, with a clear agenda 😉


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