Responding to the Power of FANG
Stephen Doel celebrates the creative and communal gifts brought by God through the companies that dominate the internet, notes the dangers and problems of accountability and regulation which their power implies, and concludes with a positive as well as critical appraisal of how Christians could react to the reality of their power. One day they will be no more, but God will always be.
We are all aware of the huge power now concentrated in the hands of a few US companies that dominate the Internet: Facebook, a massive global club; Amazon, a vast global bazaar; Netflix, a global TV, movie and video service; and Google, essentially a huge global library. You could throw Apple and Microsoft in as well as the main suppliers of software and hardware. It is interesting that Europe seems to have conceded US domination in this area very easily. China is putting up more of a fight.
This article seeks to address such a massive concentration of power from a Christian perspective, hopefully without reacting in a knee-jerk way but with a mature assessment, weighing the ways these companies use their power both for good and bad. Clearly there are issues of censorship as well as market dominance, which are now extremely topical.
The Rise of FANG
Facebook has 2 billion active users – that’s almost 30% of the world’s population. Amazon is worth more than all the bricks and mortar retailers in USA – combined. 65% of 16-24 year olds in USA use Netflix every month. Google processes over 1 trillion searches per year – that’s 40,000 per second.
And yet less than a quarter of a century ago, none of these companies existed. The rise of these internet giants – collectively known as FANG – has been faster and caused more disruption than any other business and technological change in history. Information, friends and the latest gadget are all now just a click away. But such rapid change has also brought its share of problems, as governments, regulators and the companies themselves have struggled to respond to the increasing global power these corporations wield over the world’s population. We will explore some of the positive and negative ways FANG have impacted upon society, and suggest ways that Christians may respond.
How FANG has Changed Society
When I left University in 1995, I spent a few months travelling the world before entering employment. I kept a diary and posted excerpts back to my parents every few weeks. I was able to phone them around once a month when I came across a reliable phone and could reverse charges. I took lots of photos, and finally got to see them five months later when I arrived home and printed them at Boots. I read Lord of the Rings when…
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