The aim of this project is to explore the impact of Silicon Valley tech giants on media, journalism and advertising in Finland, and to find solutions for reducing the dominance of companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple. The ambition of the Silicon Valley tech companies is to provide the digital infrastructure for all areas of society, from schools and administration to systems of communication. The bold project title, “Road to Freedom,” indicates our belief that the world has not run out of options and alternatives. Recent development in the European Union, e.g. the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, together with other initiatives show that the platform companies probably can be regulated. However, the end results and side effects are unknown.
The project title comes from the final chapter in a new book written by the project PI Carl-Gustav Lindén, “Silicon Valley och makten över medierna” (Open access). The book also provides a framework for analysing the power of Silicon Valley. We firmly believe that the “power over” theme of the book could be applied in other contexts as well, such as public administration or education.
De-platformisation is becoming a common theme for discussion today, especially against the backdrop of how social media is used for mobilising antidemocratic forces, for instance in Germany and the United States. The storming of Bundestag in Berlin in August 2020 and Capitol Building in Washington DC in January 2021 was much instigated and coordinated by using social media communication tools.
What can or should be done to mitigate the negative effects of Silicon Valley companies?
The regulatory approach to de-platformisation of Australia has been most radical as it may force Google and Facebook to pack up and leave the country. Australian researchers have even analysed what “Tech-xit” would mean for citizens in terms of losing crucial digital services. In the Nordic countries, Denmark is a forerunner with TechDK, an expert commission that analyses technology development and its impact on society. TechDK deals with ethical and moral dilemmas that cannot be solved with programming.
In Finland, we are cooperating with the National Emergency Supply Agency, which also have raised and analysed concerns regarding the impact of tech companies on national security.
Our research project started in January 2021 with an open approach but we do keep an eye on the “tech-xit” discourse and other initiatives to counterbalance the dystopian features of technology and forms of dominance in general. We believe that the media sector is an important part of the national communication and cultural infrastructure. Our value proposal is to produce three different scenarios that media, journalists and advertisers can relate to. The project will be moving fast and we are very keen on interaction with people and organisations that are interested in problematising the relationship between Silicon Valley, media, journalism and advertising. We are very open to proposals for collaboration.