Initially, Eva had considered the harvesting of data by Facebook, Google and others for the purposes of advertising a pretty innocuous way for consenting adults to trade a little bit of privacy for some rather desirable free leisure services. But as Costa would point out whenever given half a chance, Facebook and Google, Twitter and Instagram, Amazon and the rest were not mere service providers. Nor were their profits rewards for services rendered. No, they were gigantic behaviour modification machines, addicting and provoking, teasing and enraging their users in order to maximize engagement and the profiling data – and profits – that came with it.
‘Big tech only enables two people to communicate if it can manipulate their behaviour,’ Costa would insist on the rare occasions that he and Eva had argued the matter.
This was what he meant when he said that social media was proletarianizing us all. Facebook’s users provided both the labour that went into the machine and the product that was sold by it.
‘Even Walmart, a company renowned for its capacity to squeeze every drop of value out of its workers, pays out 40 per cent of its total revenue in wages,’ Costa would complain. ‘But Facebook pays only 1 per cent of its revenues to its employees and precisely nothing to its users!’
That was back in 2019. By 2025, Eva had become convinced that no self-respecting liberal could condone big tech’s mass manipulation techniques nor defend its gains as a fair reward for entrepreneurship. Its returns were only made possible by a species of techno-feudalism that made billions of people work for it for free.
Varoufakis, Yanis. Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present. London: The Bodley Head, 2020. p.144 (my emphasis)
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