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Big Tech

Rivalling the power of nations

A satirical float at a carnival parade in Germany last year. Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

After rioters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January, some of the most powerful institutions in America sprang into action, says Ian Bremmer in Foreign Affairs. But not the ones you might expect: Facebook and Twitter suspended President Trump’s accounts, while Amazon, Apple and Google blocked Parler, a Twitter alternative that Trump supporters were using to co-ordinate the attack. Payment apps such as PayPal and Stripe stopped processing donations for the Trump campaign. The response of government institutions, by contrast, was “feeble”. Nations have been the world’s main powers for centuries, but now a handful of technology companies are starting to rival them for geopolitical influence.

Elon Musk and other “techno-utopians” are open about their ambition to create a future in which technology helps societies “evolve beyond the concept of nation-states”. Widespread disillusionment with government is drawing citizens into a global digital economy that reduces the role of the state. Cryptocurrencies circumvent the world’s regulators, while “new frontiers in digital space” such as Facebook’s metaverse bypass the physical world altogether. It is no longer tenable for governments to think about big technology companies as pawns they can move around the geopolitical chessboard. More and more, those firms are geopolitical actors themselves.

Read the full article here.

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