Is tech hurting American soft power? – TechCrunch

NS TechCrunch Global Affairs Project Examine the increasingly intertwined relationships between the technology sector and global politics.

About thirty years ago, political scientist Joseph Nye overturned the practice when the state proposed to exert “hard” power, that is, not only military power but also “soft” power. Soft power writes, “When one country wants another country to do what it wants … in contrast to hard power or command power, which orders another country to do what it wants.” ..

In other words, soft power is dominated by attraction, not force. In countries with great cultural, economic, scientific and moral influence, theory “punches beyond their weight” and translates that influence into material interests. This includes everything except guns, soldiers and supplies. Queen Elizabeth II, like Rihanna, is a soft-powered all-star. But so are Hollywood, Sushi, Louis Vuitton and Copacabana Beach.

Broadway, Michael Jordan, Harvard, Starbucks and others have long made America a superpower and soft power by traditional means. However, much of America’s soft power in recent years can be attributed to our technological ingenuity. After all, the biggest names in technology — Amazon, Facebook, Google — are Americans. The richest people in the world use the iPhone almost universally. The world’s top companies run on Microsoft Windows. And world leaders from Narendra Modi to the Pope rely on Twitter and Instagram to reach their followers.

In other words, the OS of the world is American. And that means that much of the world lives on technologies that are largely based on American values ​​such as freedom of speech, privacy, respect for diversity, and decentralization.

Silicon Valley, on the other hand, is probably America’s biggest overseas attraction.Much the same as the 40% The percentage of software workers is immigrants. Google, Tesla, and Stripe all have immigrant founders. When I attended Stanford 10 years ago, I witnessed an endless procession visiting the delegation. Germans, Australians, and even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev came with several versions of the same question. How can I duplicate Silicon Valley in my hometown?

It is correct for American politicians to point out our technology sector as one of America’s best exports. But what if it is no longer an eternal force?Soft power actually goes backwards To spoil From the influence of the country?

After all, the harmful externalities of technology are well documented — Fake news In India, gencoide Awkward In Myanmar ISIS propaganda In England.In Europe lost After high-tech giants like Apple and Google for evading taxes and invading privacy while Amazon is coming Under the fire In the UK due to worker abuse. And it’s no wonder that technology has unhealthy consequences for children and teens. Strengthening scrutiny..

Technology is Tie Washington remains a challenge as it becomes increasingly dependent on hard power and American hegemony increasingly dependent on big tech companies. positioning In 2012, “reliability is the scarce resource,” can the United States separate the increasingly sneaky behavior (and reputation) of tech companies from brand USA?

This overall situation is reminiscent of the COP26 climate change negotiations that took place in Glasgow last month. Are the developed countries that many claim to be responsible for the actions of energy companies? It’s a controversial question, but there’s one thing for sure. That is, ExxonMobil no longer polishes the image of America. In fact, as the economic costs of climate change become more and more valued, it is more likely to be a liability than an asset.

Unlike its oil giant, the American technology industry has not caused a civilization crisis. We generally find their products useful. They have created a large amount of economic activity. And they have a positive externality. To give one less virtual example, the Apple iPhone is currently being used to record human rights abuses. It was posted on Alphabet’s YouTube and shared on Meta’s Facebook and WhatsApp.

But when American tech companies spread hatred and violence in other countries, they don’t really reflect in the United States. And if the United States is in their brilliance, it should also be liable for their shortcomings, unless there is a reason other than its own reputation.

Of course, there is no shortage of Washington politicians trying to hunt down Big Tech. The Biden administration is working hard to coordinate a number of regulatory measures with its allies. meeting Institutions like the FCC and FTC are poised to put in place meaningful antitrust laws.

These moves, and broader reforms like recent global companies Tax transactions At the G20, go some way to improve corporate abuse. However, while regulatory efforts are properly focused on protecting American consumers, they must also take some responsibility for the highly realistic lives that have been damaged abroad.

What does it look like? For one thing, antitrust investigations may investigate the monopoly of high-tech companies in foreign markets. U.S. standards for freedom of speech may not be fully applicable, but regulators are paying the same attention to U.S. tech companies as they are domestically, starting with starting moderation of content in foreign languages. It may encourage you to serve poor foreign markets. They should also consider adopting more locally subtle rules in overseas markets (avoid bids by personnel).

Governments also need to work with technology giants to share information about how their products are used. American diplomats on the ground may regularly explain to technical executives the impact of their products on the ground and move them towards less harmful policies. They may need more forms of external surveillance experiments, as Facebook did on the supervisory board. At the very least, they may actively work together to ensure that American technology does not contribute to early or ongoing crises. Ethiopia just now. However, the United States should not hesitate to use Entity List more aggressively to sanction companies involved in human rights abuses.

There are many things we can do positively. LinkedIn, in its honor, suspended its business in China when faced with increased censorship on the platform. When pushed, the platform decided that its (liberal) value was too important to sacrifice. Fourteen years after handing over dissident user data to Chinese authorities, Yahoo also shut down in China. And the technician should also speak up. Many objected when their company worked with the Pentagon or other national security agencies. They need to be critical of working with authoritarian governments.

Technology companies have more power than they think. When they stop undemocratic governments from exorbitant demands such as content censorship, opposition spies, and denial of technology to democratic activists, they are the magic that makes American technology companies so attractive in the first place. You run the risk of weakening. We are all already suffering from self-censorship being carried out by American companies (when was the movie last negatively portraying China?). Exports of self-censored technology will deteriorate exponentially.

Technical executives have been in recent years defense Their company (and their monopoly) for patriotic reasons. But if the technology is wrong, it’s far more harmful than making an unpleasant movie. Policymakers need to take advantage of their words and consider how their actions directly harm American interests and values ​​when American tech companies expect goodwill from Washington. Need to be clarified. They must recognize that the reputation of technology is also the reputation of the United States.
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