The ethical dilemma in the tech business.

3 months ago

By Ken Pennington

Last week’s big news: The big four – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon or largely known as GAFA – the four horsemen of the tech world were grilled by US Congress over anti-trust issues. We shall skip the background to why this came about since you can after all, Google it after reading this.

Although, this hearing will not result to any political or regulatory action in America but it will certainly raise awareness and pressure on the right people in regulatory bodies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to give thorough consideration for future decisions.

I believe this is an inevitable difficult conversation that every government must have, perhaps even more so in every other nation where these tech giants are operating and draining revenue out from.

From a similar strain of discussion, the Australian government seems bent on making Facebook and Google pay for constantly putting their hand into local media outlets’ cookie jar in what seemed like an unfair practice since forever.

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) released a draft code to tackle this on-going issue of “acute bargaining power imbalances between Australian news businesses and Google and Facebook” in a landmark decision to protect the value of local journalism and media ecosystem. 

… They just push the 6% cost back to advertisers and advertisers will have no choice but to continue spending with them. It is really high time for our MCMC to take a proactive stance to question digital giants on our turf too…

Obviously, this does not come without protests from the two tech giants calling out the government as discriminatory and unfair.  But seriously, what is fair?

When the Malaysian government imposed a 6% digital tax on foreign-owned digital platforms as an effort to ‘equalise’ competition, it did not create even a nano-dent on Google and Facebook in Malaysia. They just push the 6% cost back to advertisers and advertisers will have no choice but to continue spending with them.

It is really high time for our MCMC to take a proactive stance to question digital giants on our turf too. I can almost hear groans from digital evangelists who are also pro-Darwinian theorists.

If you are a non-evolving media company, you have no place in this world. If you are a lowly merchant who can’t give up 30% margin to be listed on apps, you do not deserve to do business.

This is the world’s biggest ethical dilemma and seems like everyone warrants a point-of-view. If you were the CEO, you want maximum growth, maximum revenue, maximum returns, you want to achieve the highest mortal possibility, you want to conquer the world. 

GAFA is like a race horse with blinkers.

They are not about to get distracted by anything and everything is about growth.

Ask Grab, ask Lazada, ask Boost, ask any tech companies and they will tell you the same.

If you were a digital evangelist, you will not empathise with the cumbersome, innovation-averse, traditional media model and you’d think they deserve to die.

You’d think helping them, even in any small way, is stifling innovation. If they’ve not evolved themselves, why should they be helped? 

However, if you were a journalist and are passionate about what you do, you’ll be lamenting on unfair practice and environment posed by these digital giants.

And you will wonder what is a nation when it is devoid of good honest journalism.

And if you were a policymaker, you want to protect your market and people but without stifling growth prematurely and obviously this is history in the making on a daily basis – there is no rule book, no constitution, no playbook to guide you because from now on, every time will be the first of such events.

… They want to buy you out to destroy you or to spurt their own growth. You started with nothing but you could be a billionaire overnight…

And if you were a budding start-up founder, whose platform is making waves and poses noticeable threats to the tech giants and they want you out. They want to buy you out to destroy you or to spurt their own growth.

You started with nothing but you could be a billionaire overnight. It’s like a serious case of durian runtuh hurricane-level.

That’s the goal of almost every startup: get listed or get acquired.

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