I'm paraphrasing, but it's generally true: "Libertarians seem to be OK with Google, or Facebook, or Twitter rigging the next election, as long as they are not "The Government."
To grasp the affinities between administrative governance and algorithmic governance, one must first get over that intellectually debilitating article of libertarian faith, namely that “the government” poses the only real threat to liberty. For what does Silicon Valley represent, if not a locus of quasi-governmental power untouched by either the democratic process or by those hard-won procedural liberties that are meant to secure us against abuses by the (actual, elected) government? If the governmental quality of rule by algorithms remains obscure to us, that is because we actively welcome it into our own lives under the rubric of convenience, the myth of free services, and ersatz forms of human connection—the new opiates of the masses.When you are able to influence what people think and how they think, what is allowed and what is out-of-bounds you have the mechanism of tyranny, no matter if the influencers are government employees or private citizens. And these citizens are totally unaccountable via the ballot.
To characterize this as the operation of “the free market” (as its spokespersons do) requires a display of intellectual agility that might be admirable if otherwise employed. The reality is that what has emerged is a new form of monopoly power made possible by the “network effect” of those platforms through which everyone must pass to conduct the business of life. These firms sit at informational bottlenecks, collecting data and then renting it out, whether for the purpose of targeted ads or for modeling the electoral success of a political platform. Mark Zuckerberg has said frankly that “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company. . . . We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”
Yet political accountability is the very essence of representative government. Whatever this new form of governance might be called, it is certainly not that....
Of all the platform firms, Google is singular. Its near-monopoly on search (around 90 percent) puts it in a position to steer thought. And increasingly, it avows the steering of thought as its unique responsibility. Famously founded on the principle “Don’t be evil” (a sort of libertarian moral minimalism), it has since taken up the mission of actively doing good, according to its own lights.
All of the great monsters of the 20th Century were actively doing good, according to their own lights.
And it takes no time at all for government leaders to get involved.
In an important article titled “Google.gov,” law professor Adam J. White details both the personnel flows and deep intellectual affinities between Google and the Obama White House. Hundreds of people switched jobs back and forth between this one firm and the administration over eight years. It was a uniquely close relationship, based on a common ethos, that began with Obama’s visit to Google’s headquarters in 2004 and deepened during his presidential campaign in 2007....
The whole problem of “liberal democracy”—that unstable hybrid—is visible in microcosm at Google; it manifests as schizophrenia in how the founders characterize the firm’s mission. Their difficulty is understandable, as the trust people place in Google is based on its original mission of simply answering queries that reflect the extant priorities of a user, when in fact the mission has crept toward a more tutelary role in shaping thought....
In the Founders Letter that accompanied Google’s 2004 initial public offering, Larry Page and Sergey Brin said their goal is “getting you exactly what you want, even when you aren’t sure what you need.” The perfect search engine would do this “with almost no effort” on the part of the user. In a 2013 update to the Founders Letter, Page said that “the search engine of my dreams provides information without you even having to ask.” Adam J. White glosses these statements: “To say that the perfect search engine is one that minimizes the user’s effort is effectively to say that it minimizes the user’s active input. Google’s aim is to provide perfect search results for what users ‘truly’ want—even if the users themselves don’t yet realize what that is. Put another way, the ultimate aspiration is not to answer the user’s questions but the question Google believes she should have asked.” As Eric Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal, “[O]ne idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you having to type. . . . I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”..
The ideal being articulated in Mountain View is that we will integrate Google’s services into our lives so effortlessly, and the guiding presence of this beneficent entity in our lives will be so pervasive and unobtrusive, that the boundary between self and Google will blur. The firm will provide a kind of mental scaffold for us, guiding our intentions by shaping our informational context. This is to take the idea of trusteeship and install it in the infrastructure of thought.
Populism is the rejection of this....
When you don't agree with Google they drop the hammer on you.
When the internal culture at Google spills out into the headlines, we are offered a glimpse of the moral universe that stands behind the “objective” algorithms. Recall the Googlers’ reaction, which can only be called hysterical, to the internal memo by James Damore. He offered rival explanations, other than sexism, for the relative scarcity of women programmers at the firm (and in tech generally). The memo was written in the language of rational argumentation, and adduced plenty of facts, but the wrong kind. For this to occur within the firm was deeply threatening to its self-understanding as being at once a mere conduit for information and a force for progress. Damore had to be quarantined in the most decisive manner possible. His dissent was viewed not as presenting arguments that must be met, but rather facts that must be morally disqualified.
This conflict is most acute in the United States, where the legal and political tradition protecting free speech is most robust. In Europe, the alliance between social media companies and state actors to root out and punish whatever they deem “hate” (some of which others deem dissent) is currently being formalized. This has become especially urgent ahead of the European Parliament elections scheduled for May 2019, which various EU figures have characterized as the last chance to quarantine the populist threat. Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s secretary of state for digital affairs, explained in February 2019 that, by the time of the election, “it will be possible to formally file a complaint online for hateful content.”12 In particular, Twitter and Facebook have agreed to immediately transmit the IP addresses of those denounced for such behavior to a special cell of the French police “so that the individual may be rapidly identified, rapidly prosecuted and sentenced.” He did not explain how “hateful content” is to be defined, or who gets to do it. But it is reported that Facebook has a private army of fifteen to twenty thousand for this task.
Stalin didn't have tools nearly as powerful as this. He relied on spies and stool pigeons. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are being told secrets - by ourselves - that we don't even share with our most intimate friends and family.