Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Robert Reich's book Supercapitalism talks about how individuals roles as investors and consumers has swamped their roles as citizens. (This distinction is a bit like the one I and the ACMA have also made.

Reich's concern is how to reclaim democracy for citizens.

It is distressing therefore to see a columnist of the stature of Elizabeth Knight suggesting in consideration of the NBN;

If a compromise with Telstra cannot be found, if would not be surprising if the first phone call made by Telstra's chief executive, David Thodey, was to to BHP Billiton's boss, Marius Kloppers. They could join forces in a concerted effort to oust the government.

The relation between corporations and democracy has also been on display in the discussion over the behaviour of Google and Facebook. both are emboiled in discussions of privacy and of the way they manage the "appropriateness" of user generated content (UGC).

Stephen Conroy is reported to have claimed that Google intentionally set out to listen in to people's WiFi. Google now claims it wants to delete the data but needs to hang onto it for dealing with any legal action. (The latter seems to ignore the third way of handing the data to their lawyers and not retaining their own copy).

A similar issue has emerged at Facebook though here it is far murkier. It is easy to write about people voluntarily giving up their information and forgoing privacy, but it is a different matter whether the corporation handles the information well.

Perhaps it's time to start listening to Stephen Conroy, who flayed Google and Facebook on Monday night. He's at war with the industry over a contentious mandatory net filter and many saw his spray as a classic shirt-front attack on the opposition.

But the Minister for Communications may still be right when he asks who best to trust, ''a corporate giant who is answerable to no one and motivated solely by profit'' or an elected government?

Facebook also made the news over claims it is hindering police. Once again their spokesman seems to think their corporate policies are more important than Australia's democracy.

This is before we even start talking about take-down policies on content.

The balance between consumer/investors and citizens inherent in Supercapitalism is wrong. We need to fix it.

Note: Is there a commercial opprtunity for a new social networking site that embeds in its business model the idea that it really is multi-domestic not just a piece of US imperial capitalism?


bloodwood said...

Good comments David - but what is a "shirt-front attack"???

David Havyatt said...

That was a quote. But for information a "shirt-front attack" is descriptive of when you go up to a bloke and clutch his shirt in your left hand (unless a soutpaw) while berating loudly verbally and threatening with right wrist.