Digital Colonialism: How Our Data Is Being Misused By Big Tech
Physical occupation of weaker nations i.e., colonialism, was carried out at a gun point, and financial colonialism at loan point. Loans were primarily designed by imperial forces to trap poor countries in a vicious circular debt through international lending agencies like the IMF and World Bank, ultimately imposing colonial like cruel policies. These measures aimed at accumulating assets and wealth of borrowers states by dictating tough conditions resulting in levying heavy taxes grinding the already economically-squeezed masses.
Thus, the political as well as economic autonomy of these nations were undermined with the help of manipulative monetary policies i.e. debt. And now, in the same manner, digital colonialism has reached the shoulders of Big Techs like the Silicon Valley, Google, Facebook etc. They use proprietary software, corporate clouds and centralised internet services to spy on users, process data providing to their commercial and consumer clientele.
Core object of every form of colonialism is the same: capital collection. And other objectives being cultural hegemony ideological control, slavery, and divide and-rule policies. With changing times, however, colonialism has changed its means and methods to be applied as per the demand of the new colonial edifice.
Digital colonialism is looming large over countries as well as multitudes of population all over the globe. It is undermining our privacy, collecting and selling data, snatching money, suppressing freedoms, and it is tool to be used for politically-motivated moves and ideological control.
I am only offering a drop from an ocean of deep dangers posed by digital colonialism.
The US Election 2016 presents the precedent set: Trump’s ascendency to presidency was result of psychological warfare initiated by digital tools. Donald Trump after having hired Cambridge Analytica launched his candidacy’s social media campaign on the line given by the CA in the light of feedback it gathered from Facebook. Thus, it was used for ideological control convincing population who they should consider voting for.
Columnists Dipayan Ghosh and Ben Scott rightly remarked in their write-up titled “Facebook’s new controversy shows how easily online political ads can manipulate you?’: The questions surrounding the role of Facebook and other social media sites in the politics of out time have been coming at what feels like an accelerating pace. Reporting by the Observer, the Guardian and the New York Times in recent days has revealed that Cambridge Analytica — the social media monitors firm that bragged it helped put Trump in the White House — had gained access before the election to the data of 50 million Facebook users through highly questionable means.Cambridge Analytica used to that data to create a tool of ‘psychological warfare’ to manipulate American voters with targeted Facebook ads and social media campaigns.
This news has painted the national discussion over social media’s impact on national politics in a stark new light. There was already a debate raging about how targeted digital ads and messages from campaigns, partisan propanganditis and even Russian agents were sowing outrage and division in the U.S.electorate. Now, it appears that Cambridge Analytica took it a step further, using highly sensitive data taken from Facebook users without their knowledge to manipulate them into supporting Donald Trump.
This scandal raises major questions about how this could have happened, how it can be stopped and whether the connection between data-driven ads and democracy is fundamentally toxic.”
In Myanmar, Facebook rolled out fake pages of celebrities and political personalities, which were said to be in thousands, forwarding contemptuous content against Rohingya population facing genocide. After receiving a robust rebuttal from across the sections of society from all over the world, the Facebook took longer time than imagined, to pull down toxic pages directed against a particular race.
The Facebook thus became a mouthpiece of Myanmar Military and politically dominant race in advancing their genocidal content that had caused an influx of about 7.5 million to neighbouring Bangladesh in 2018.
Zong Monthly Internet package of 30GBs used to be of Rs: 1500; suddenly it was raised to Rs2000. Upon inquiry; I was told that the package GBs was increased from 30 to 60.
This typically implies the data collection to be used for petty profiteering. Having realised that users hardly use 30 GBs, GBs were increased aimed at fleecing public.
I hardly use 6 GBs in stipulated time, what is the use of having more? There might be millions in my country falling in the same line.
We are left with no option but succumbing to monkey business, prioritised by the companies. Also, adds keep coaxing public ultimately switching over to -e -purchasing. An instant argument might be offered that digital world offers such applications like the Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter etc free of cost.
These free applications are much like the railway tracks, roads and waterways. , rolled out and built in former colonies to transport goods to desired destinations. Revenue is needed to run these Free Applications, on the one hand, on the other; they are being used for multiple purposes like the collection of data, surveillance system embedded in centralized control, and manipulation in every context.
We are paying to big Techs to be spied over, subjected to surveillance, coerced for commercial considerations, to be puppets in the hands of gods of greed. Last year, Australian government being alive to the existential threats posed by online advertisement, and news content uploaded by social networking like the Facebook; introduced law forcing Google and Facebook to pay Australian news for links that are posted on its platform millions of dollars in fines in one of the aggressive moves globally to check the power of the two US digital giants.
Google threatened to block Australia over content compensation. The Australian PM conveyed his concern in no uncertain terms that the law introduced was a rule to do business in his country. Under such circumstances, Internet Giant -Google reached a content payment deal with some French news publishers as part of three-year, 1.3bn dollars push to support publishers. Aggressive laws being made, and news content compensation demanded, do suggest that the countries in Global North are alive to digital colonialism.
Distinguished writer Michael Kwet is quite convinced that American Big Tech companies are just as dominant outside of the US as they are inside of it. And with US markets relatively saturated, they are seeking to colonise emerging markets.
Navigating peoples from the currents of digital colonialism calls for collected efforts on the part of global political spectrum to build dams against it. What we should wear, use, purchase and who to vote do suggest making us slave. Unfortunately, favourite butt of every colonialism is the Global South due to various factors both local and the international.
As the Vice Chancellor of Wits University in South Africa warned,” considerations of technological innovations have not even entered the public discourse and we are at a collective risk of once again merely being victims of economic forces processes beyond our control.”Exceptions notwithstanding, few are contemplating how this actually works.”
We can’t afford turning a blind eye to it. After having been deprived of the opportunity to put their own interests about data into the document, a number of developing countries such as India, Indonesia and South Africa refused to sign an international declaration in data flows-the so called Osaka Track at the close of 2019 June’s G20 Summit in Japan.
There is no denying the fact that the big Techs have transformed the world into a global village. But this village needs security, safety, privacy and economic protection.
If the political leaders of countries in Global South acted imprudently, the digital colonialism would wreak havoc upon humanity.
Are ruling elites [ in Pakistan] aware of digital imperialism?