Great Britain

Why it’s time to unlike these ogres of the internet Google and Facebook

NOW we finally have the chance to take back control of our laws, borders and money from unelected Brussels bureaucrats, Boris Johnson’s new government should go one step further.

Let’s take back control of our freedoms, privacy and information from the unaccountable global ogres of Google and Facebook.

The UK competition watchdog says there is now a “strong argument” for action to tackle the dominance of Google and Facebook over our digital world.

Strong argument? No digi-s**t, Sherlock!

Despite their obvious appeal and usefulness, these mega-corporations corrupt the market and meddle in ordinary people’s lives.

The “woke” and green bosses of the internet giants may not look like pollution-pumping, profit-squeezing robber barons of the past.

Yet the duopoly of Google and Facebook controls the market to an extent undreamt of by the 19th-century capitalists.

Think I exaggerate? A glance at the new report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) reveals that, over the past decade, Google has controlled more than 90 per cent of the UK’s £6billion search advertising market.

'TAX-AVOIDANCE TRICKS'

Facebook has almost half of the £5billion internet display advertising market.

No amount of google-degook about how liberal and progressive they are can hide the fact the duopoly has reinvented the old-fashioned system of oligarchy — the control of a few over the rest.

And we all suffer the consequences.

One thing everybody knows about the digital giants is that they do not pay anywhere near their fair share of tax — yet they take full advantage of our public services.

A few years ago, in a moment of candour, the chairman of Google declared he was “proud” of his company’s tax-avoidance tricks, which he claimed were simply “capitalism”.

But isn’t the free market meant to offer consumers choice? The duopoly’s version of capitalism does the opposite.

'PROFOUND EFFECT'

For example, Google’s enormous heft meant it was able to pay billions to ensure it is the default search engine on mobile devices — including iPhones and iPads — we use every day. As a result, it coined in £6billion in search advertising revenues in the UK.

The watchdog’s report says these default settings have a “profound effect” on competition and consumer choice.

And when they are not using their financial muscle to take control, they have other methods of gaining an unfair advantage.

Last year, an EU investigation found that Google’s complex contracts were effectively holding phone manufacturers to ransom.

If they wanted their smartphones to have access to the all-important app store Google Play, they first had to pre-install Google search and its browser.

It was a move that saw the EU fine Google a record £3.9billion.

'USE OF PERSONAL DATA'

For once, even some of us old Brexiteers sided with the faceless European Commissioners against the shameless digital giants.

Meanwhile, Facebook is notorious for its use and abuse of users’ personal data.

The “friendly” social media giant will sell our details for cold, hard cash, then pose as a privacy crusader when police ask for help pursuing serious criminals.

Facebook promised EU officials it would not merge its user accounts with those of messaging service WhatsApp — which it owns along with Messenger and Instagram — then did it anyway. The resulting £93million fine seems a small price to pay for exploiting the data of billions of users.

Worse, Facebook does not allow us to opt-out of personalised advertising in order to keep our data private.

'UNFRIENDING FACEBOOK'

As the watchdog report says, this means: “People are presented with a take-it-or-leave-it offer, forcing them to share considerable amounts of personal data as a condition for using the service.”

Many have already decided to leave it, with users “unfriending” Facebook in droves. And it is more than private data that is at risk by the duopoly — our sources of public information suffer, too.

Google and Facebook’s domination of the advertising market starves media outlets of funds while the digital giants rip off and republish news stories that proper journalists produce.

The competition watchdog warns that this situation will: “Undermine the ability of newspapers and others to produce valuable content, to the detriment of broader society.”

It is not just fake news on Facebook and Google we need to worry about, either — it is the throttling of real news by the duopoly’s dirty hands. Like all tinpot tyrants, the digital giants also like to control what is said about them.

The New America Foundation, an influential Google-funded think tank, reportedly fired researchers who were urging US anti-trust officials to take on the company.

And Google has been quietly financing an army of professors to write research papers that justify its dominance of the market.

When the UK regulator’s work is done, the chief executive says: “We will present our findings to the new government as they decide whether and how to regulate what is an increasingly central sector in all our lives.”

Then Boris Johnson needs to show the same nerve in taking on the duopoly’s digital dictatorship as he does in facing down the EU empire.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the social media giant is reluctant to ban political ads because 'people should be able to judge for themselves'

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