Updated: May 7
The tobacco industry and big tech have a lot of similarities. Maybe it's about time we started treating their societal harm the same way.
Amazon consistently abuses worker's rights and minimises tax contributions: ttps://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-10/Challenging%20Amazon%20%28final%29.pdf
Uber paid hackers to delete the stolen data of 57 million people. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-21/uber-concealed-cyberattack-that-exposed-57-million-people-s-data
The Myanmar military used Facebook as a tool for ethnic cleansing, specifically targetting Rohingya Muslims. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/technology/myanmar-facebook-genocide.html
Similarly to Uber, Deliveroo fought against granting their workers basic working rights. https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2018/06/i-don-t-even-go-toilet-deliveroo-riders-will-fight-be-recognised-workers
Tobacco and Big Tech
On April 14, 1994, seven CEOs of large American tobacco firms faced a Congressional subcommittee hearing on the potential health risks of tobacco. They were all asked, under oath; “Do you believe that nicotine is not addictive?”. One after the other each of the men clearly stated that they do not believe nicotine is addictive.
These were bizarre statements given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Evidence that each of the CEOs confirmed they had read. For example, the 1988 Surgeon General’s stated that “the pharmacological and behavioural processes that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine”.
The hearing became infamous. It marked a clear turning of public opinion against the tobacco industry. These leaders were aware their products were deadly and yet continued to market them to young adults and children. And all for their continued profitability.
The ‘Big Tech’ Congressional hearing quickly drew similar comparisons, with Rep. Bill Johnson likening the CEOs of Big Tech companies to those from large tobacco firms and accusing the Silicon Valley giants of being equally dangerous to society.
Largely in part to the work of documentaries like ‘The Social Dilemma’ and ‘Coded Bias’ the general public are similarly becoming more aware of the dangers big tech poses to society and individuals. Opinion polls show increasing negative views of big tech and further calls for increased regulation.
We think society should lean into these comparisons, to maintain the awareness of the harms big tech poses to all of us. _________________________________________________________________________
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