The Evening Standard (London) on tech and politics:
Big tech met big politics yesterday — and came off best.
Swapping his usual grey T-shirt for a sober suit and tidy blue tie, Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spent five hours giving evidence to the US Congress about the data scandal that has hit his business.
Even for a billionaire it was an intimidating event. But as he spoke, his company’s share price climbed and that more than anything else revealed the final score.
Senators tried to put him under pressure. Some of their questions were good ones; others were not.
It would be easy to mock the senator who asked how Facebook made money — apparently unaware of its vast revenues from advertising and data.
But mockery would be the wrong response.
Governments, courts and parliaments all over the world are struggling to respond to the vast and rapid changes to politics, society and economics being brought by businesses such as Facebook.
Would British MPs have asked better questions than the senators? No.
Do they have the knowledge and the tools to respond to the power of social media? No.
Do our regulators or our courts? No.
Digital technology is no longer just one industry among many others: it is a fundamental dynamic in almost every part of modern life and its power is only going to become greater.
The established ways of business, politics and Government can no longer deal with this adequately — as everything from the influence of fake social media in the US presidential election to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, to the epidemic of gang violence on London’s streets shows.
So the big question we should all be asking is: what needs to change? And how do we make it happen?
The wrong response would be to fear technology or to try to contain its impact.
It is improving lives fundamentally but our governments, parliaments and courts need to make a systematic attempt to understand its consequences so they can better regulate it, support it and improve it.
As Congress has just found out, ignorance isn’t bliss.
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