Back in the 1990’s Microsoft was the Wicked Witch of the tech world. The techies were upset that the company made substandard software and then forced everyone to use it. For example, Internet Explorer was not as good as Netscape Navigator, but because Microsoft had tremendous clout in the market it could cut business deals that made it hard for consumers to use anything else and muscled Netscape out of business.
The government finally got involved went after Microsoft and got very close to breaking the company up, just like it did with Ma Bell in the early 1980s.
The current captains of tech learned their lesson. Google, Facebook and Twitter make pretty decent software. More importantly, they (mostly) don’t cut business deals that force you use it.
Instead, they work on your addictions. The employ behavioral physiologists and their techniques to get you hooked on their services. The smartphone and ubiquitous internet was a godsend to these companies, because you can feed your addiction to these services anywhere, not just at your desk – in your car, walking down the street, in the toilet, .
What they did not learn from Microsoft’s experience is that anything that gets too big and indispensable will eventually generate backlash. First, politicians from the left railed against these companies for allowing themselves to be used by fake news to influence the election of Donald Trump. Next, politicians from the right are upset that these companies are over correcting.
When both sides of the political aisle have you in their sights, it cannot be good.
It is not clear what the politicians will come up with, but it is clear that the underlying problem is the addictive nature of these services. If people were not so compelled to use them, they wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
Maybe a Surgeon General’s Warning would help:
Social media and search are highly addictive. Quitting greatly reduces serious risks to your mental and political health.