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The philanthropist says companies like Facebook and Google deceive users by manipulating their attention.
Addressing the rise and “monopolistic behavior” of “giant IT platform companies,” the Hungarian businessman argued that internet monopolies don’t protect users from the consequences of their actions, making them a “menace” to society. He called for an increase in government regulation to protect society against the tech giants.
“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,” Soros said.
Comparing them to a casino, Soros shared the sentiment of former Facebook president Sean Parker, who said the social giant makes people addicted to its platform by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
“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,” Soros said. “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.”
Most concerning are Soros’ warnings on how these data-rich monopolies could partner with authoritarian states to strengthen surveillance efforts against citizens, leading to totalitarian control “the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined.” The business magnate believes U.S. internet-service companies are already tempted to give into the demand of authoritarian states in order to gain access to their markets.
He went on to claim the United States is too weak to do anything about these platforms because its regulators are “not strong enough to stand up against their political influence.” That isn’t the case with the European Union (E.U.). Soros notes how Europe protects against the abuse of monopolies regardless of how their power was achieved, unlike the U.S., which regulates based on acquisitions.
“Moreover, U.S. law has adopted a strange doctrine: it measures harm as an increase in the price paid by customers for services received – and that is almost impossible to prove when most services are provided for free,” Soros explained in his speech. “This leaves out of consideration the valuable data platform companies collect from their users.”
But there’s a hero to save us from these technology monsters: the European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Soros believes stronger regulation from the E.U., led by Vestager, will prove too much for Facebook and Google to overcome.
“It is only a matter of time before the global dominance of the U.S. IT monopolies is broken. Davos is a good place to announce that their days are numbered. Regulation and taxation will be their undoing and E.U. Competition Commissioner Vestager will be their nemesis.”
You can read a transcript of the full speech on George Soros’ website.
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.