Byte Back: On Two New Books About the Internet

At what point, I sometimes wonder, did Google’s motto ‘Don’t Be Evil’ become a standing joke? Was it when the multinational started monetising the information collected on its users? Or was it when it decided to avoid paying taxes? Surely it can’t have been as late as 2009, when it gave the US National Security Agency direct access to its worldwide network. I suppose the answer will depend in part on our view of info-capitalism generally. But I doubt there can be anyone left who doesn’t cock at least one eyebrow when they encounter, or remember, this corporate imperative.

To this extent Jonathan Taplin is pushing at an open door when he asserts that the giant tech companies are, in fact, very evil indeed, if by ‘evil’ we mean driven by profit, not people, and indifferent to the greater good. His spirited book Move Fast and Break Things takes its title from another imperative, from Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, and captures the nihilistic ethos that characterises info-capitalism. The bright young things of Silicon Valley like to paint themselves as blue-sky thinkers. But for Taplin they stand in a long tradition of predatory capitalism, and are no less savage in pursuit of their interests than the British East India Company. [More here.]