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13 Dec 2017 3:13
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  •   Home > News > International

    Facebook and Google pose 'clear and present threat' to civil society, British TV executive says

    The chairman of Britain's largest commercial television company has warned that internet giants Facebook and Google pose a "clear and present danger" to civil society.


    The chairman of Britain's largest commercial television company has warned that internet giants Facebook and Google pose a "clear and present danger" to civil society.

    ITV's Sir Peter Bazalgette told a broadcasting conference in London that large technology companies do not consider the ethical impact of what they do and should face tighter regulation.

    "We are being influenced and in some cases you could say even governed by people who are not in this country," Sir Peter said.

    "Engineers [working at big tech companies] are very fine folk, but they don't necessarily, unless they take an interest in it, think about the ethics of society."

    Sir Peter accused politicians of failing to appreciate the impacts of large digital companies, dismissing their claim to be platforms rather than publishers as "frankly unsustainable".

    But the ITV chairman stopped short of agreeing with News Corp CEO Robert Thompson's assessment of companies like Google as the "parasites" of the internet.

    "I wouldn't use that word, I think that's a rather unpleasant word. I could think of some other unpleasant words for them instead," he said.

    "If you look at what Google does, it does some very good things too and it does some pro-social things.

    "But the overall challenge of the internet and the internet giants, of whom there are now four or five, that is a very serious economic, cultural and democratic issue and we haven't begun to tackle it."

    'Mass media is at fault'

    Sir Peter also identified the increasing shift of advertising revenue to tech companies as a key area needing attention.

    This year Google and Facebook are expected to take in half of all digital advertising revenue worldwide and around one fifth of total advertising revenue.

    "In some countries, Google has a market share of 80 to 90 per cent in search advertising," Sir Peter said. "That's an extraordinary monopoly."

    But Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism at the City University of New York, said legacy media companies were themselves to blame for their decline in advertising revenue in recent years.

    "We tried to hold on to and preserve and protect our old models, we didn't innovate. That is our own damned fault," Professor Jarvis said.

    "What Facebook and Google did was offer our customers, our advertisers, a better deal because they no longer treated the public as a mass, all the same to be treated to single messages."

    Professor Jarvis disagrees that technology companies need further regulation, describing the idea as a "techno-panic".

    "It's a luddite view which says technology is at fault for society's problems," he said.

    "Mass media is to fault for many of the problems we have in society today [like] cats, Kardashians and Donald Trump."

    "Mass media gives us a business model that leads to these ills. Mass media is at fault."


    ABC




    © 2017 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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