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Google and Facebook: Unelected Superpowers?

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the but-if-by-elect-you-mean-choose dept.

Google 243

theodp (442580) writes "'The government is not the only American power whose motivations need to be rigourously examined,' writes The Telegraph's Katherine Rushton. 'Some 2,400 miles away from Washington, in Silicon Valley, Google is aggressively gaining power with little to keep it in check. It has cosied up to governments around the world so effectively that its chairman, Eric Schmidt, is a White House advisor. In Britain, its executives meet with ministers more than almost any other corporation. Google can't be blamed for this: one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders, but it is up to governments to push back. As things stand, Google — and to a lesser extent, Facebook — are in danger of becoming the architects of the law.' Schmidt, by the way, is apparently interested in influencing at least two current hot-button White House issues. Joined by execs from Apple, Oracle, and Facebook, the Google Chairman asserted in a March letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the economic interests of the U.S.; the Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the pipeline, perhaps until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections. And as a 'Major Contributor' to Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, Schmidt is also helping to shape public opinion on the White House's call for immigration reform; FWD.us just launched new attack ads (videos) and a petition aimed at immigration reform opponent Rep. Steve King. In Dave Eggers' The Circle, politicians who impede the company execs' agenda are immediately brought down. But that's fiction, right?"

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Who watches the watchers (5, Insightful)

graphius (907855) | about 3 months ago | (#46799611)

We need oversight for government, and we need oversight for corporations. We the people* don't give a crap as long as our ipad can stream entertainment. Sometimes I wonder if democracy is dead.

Lots of people care (4, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 3 months ago | (#46799639)

what are you going to do about it? Remember Occupy Wall Street? It was systematically put down using the anti-terrorism tools from 9-11 that everyone pinky-sweared wouldn't be used on Americans.

Don't get me wrong. I'm in favor of _more_ federal gov't. Civil rights for Black People in the Southern American States only happened because the Federal Government stepped in with the National Guard. Hell, we had outright terrorism in the south up until the late 50s early 60s. Mega corps are just too powerful to be reigned in with any less than a National Government. It's a double edged sword. But it's the only sword big enough...

Re:Who watches the watchers (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799669)

Sometimes I wonder if democracy is dead.

Sometimes I wonder if I was the only one paying attention in Civics and Social Studies. Cliff notes version:

1) The United States is not a Democracy, it's a Republic.
2) The devolution of Democracies into fragmented self-interests is a problem that's been studied since the time of Athens. It should surprise no one.
3) The United States Federal Government was obstinately set up to minimize the aforementioned trend, but several big mistakes (Reynolds v. Sims [wikipedia.org] and the 17th Amendment [wikipedia.org] top the list) along the way and 200 years of mission creep have undermined most of the protections put in place.

What can we do about it? You've got me. My best suggestion is to pray for the emergence of an existential threat, because that's the only thing that will get the American people to set aside their differences long enough to find the sort of common ground it took to come up with the original Constitution. You've actually got two problems to overcome:

1) The iPad crowd's apathy towards the political process, which is reinforced by:
2) The tendency of those engaged in that process to assume that those who disagree with them are out to destroy the American way of life.

Re:Who watches the watchers (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799689)

That should have been "ostensibly" in item #3. :)

Re:Who watches the watchers (3, Interesting)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 3 months ago | (#46799777)

To paraphrase: The best argument against democracy (and yes, even democratic republics) is a five minute discussion with the average voter.

Toss it all out, it is corrupt by nature, and appoint everybody by lottery for one term only. Only then can we get the turnover needed to eliminate the careerism and mitigate the corruption.

Re:Who watches the watchers (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#46800013)

And you will replace "careerism" with incompetence. Can you imagine having a House of Representatives where no one has more than one term's experience? In the end you would literally hand over all power to bureaucrats, lobbiests and staffers, who would be the only ones with any long term experience. You would, in the end, make things worse, not better.

Re:Who watches the watchers (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 3 months ago | (#46800247)

Not at all. Bureaucrats and staffers go out the window also, all of them, with each cycle. The idea is to turn our elected officials into the servants they are supposed to be. The present system does not allow that.

If a kid fresh out of high can be taught to fire a gun without killing himself, and you can depend on him to guard that wall, he can be given a proper education in governance. By the way, no careerism in the military is permitted either. We don't need a bunch of desktop generals who have proven nothing other than being efficient paper pushers

If you want to slog along with the same old same old, be my guest, but it makes all your complaints sound rather silly, and you will be mocked :-)

Re:Who watches the watchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799819)

1) The United States is not a Democracy, it's a Republic.

God damn it. Stop pretending that language doesn't change over time. "Democracy" can now mean something like "Republic." Deal with it.

Re:Who watches the watchers (1, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799857)

The word "democracy" does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, nor the US Constitution, nor any of the State Constitutions that I'm familiar with.

Words matter, and the United States is properly described as a Federal Republic, made up of 50 States, that regain their sovereignty in all matters not explicitly assigned to the Federal Government by the United States Constitution.

Re:Who watches the watchers (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 months ago | (#46799893)

The two things aren't mutually exclusive. They don't even refer to the same thing. It's possible to be both, one or the other, or neither[1]. Draw a venn digram, FFS..

Until you grok that, shove your civics class up your arse.

[1] For extra credit, name one in each category.

Re:Who watches the watchers (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46800079)

Arse? So a Brit presumes to lecture me on the American system of government? Don't you have an un-elected Monarch to go pay tribute to or something? Maybe some inalienable rights (RKBA [wikipedia.org] , the right to remain silent [wikipedia.org] , the right against self-incrimination [wikipedia.org] , and so on) you'd like to try and take back from your Government?

Re:Who watches the watchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800197)

People who don't learn that language evolves are doomed to misunderstand other people.

Words matter

Indeed they do. And words can have multiple meanings, and meanings can be added to a word over time. Sorry, but new definitions of "democracy" have been added over time, and even if you don't like it, pretending that they don't exist is just silly.

Re:Who watches the watchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799895)

1) The United States is not a Democracy, it's a Republic.

The only thing you apparently paid attention to is the tech-tree in Civilization. One is a subset of the other. You're thinking of Direct Democracy which is practiced nowhere. Switzerland comes somewhat close.

You're right in that the US is no longer a Democracy, though.

Re:Who watches the watchers (5, Insightful)

xenoc_1 (140817) | about 3 months ago | (#46799953)

Sometimes I wonder if I was the only one paying attention in Civics and Social Studies. Cliff notes version:

1) The United States is not a Democracy, it's a Republic. ...

Oh jeez this again? The classic GOP / Libertarian / Tea weak-minds binary thinking that gets the meaning of both "republic" and "democracy" wrong.

The US is (supposed to be) a democracy. Just ask any living current or ex-President. Look at any respected list of "countries that are democracies". You do the research. It's simple.

The US is a republic. As in, "not a monarchy".

Republics can be democracies or they can be dictatorships, and pretty much anything in between. There is also nothing in the word "republic" which implies "representative". Just ask North Koreans.

Democracies can be direct democracies, like ancient Athens or a current-day New England Town Meeting or California ballot initiative. Or they can be representative. There is nothing in the word "democracy" that implies "direct-only".

"Democracy" and "Republic" are orthogonal concepts, they are not antonyms. Even when the US Senate was appointed, it was appointed by state legislatures which were comprised of elected representatives, who were elected by democratic elections. As opposed to being appointed by the monarch or being passed down via aristocratic houses.

Actually nowadays we are closer to that, with the money=speech nonsense and an increasingly distractable and distracted public who will vote whichever way paid media brainwashes them to do. House Clinton, House Bush, House Kennedy, and the upstart House Paul.

You may flip the order of the following words around, depending on what you want to emphasize, change some from adjectives to nouns, but all these terms are needed to properly define what the US system of government is:

Constitutional Federal Republic governed as a Representative Democracy,

or a
Federal Constitutional Representative Democratic Republic.

Choose your emphasis, but you cannot leave any of those terms out without misrepresenting how the system is designed.

  • It's a Federation of States. Not a unitary central government with weak subdivisions that have only specifically designated powers (like for example Uruguay is, where the "departamentos" of my new country of residence are far weaker than US States or even Canadian provinces, are more like counties in US states.)
  • It operates under a written Constitution, rather than an unwritten or partially-wrtten collection of basic law (like the UK has)
  • It is a Republic, not a Monarchy (unlike the UK which is a monarchy even though it is also a democracy)
  • It is a Representative democracy rather than a direct democracy, at its Federal and in most cases at lower levels (same as UK)
  • It is a Democracy rather than a dictatorship. We The People (supposedly) have a voice and a fairly-run, democratic vote, in deciding who represents us.

Leaving any of that out is at best, ignorant point-missing. Usually it is deliberate agitprop.

The sky isn't blue, it's where birds fly. What you are saying is every bit as nonsensical and more dangerous.

Re:Who watches the watchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800279)

What can we do about it? You've got me. My best suggestion is to pray for the emergence of an existential threat, because that's the only thing that will get the American people to set aside their differences long enough to find the sort of common ground it took to come up with the original Constitution. You've actually got two problems to overcome:

That's why you had evil USSR. Everything in western world look so bright and beautiful when USSR was standing.

Re:Who watches the watchers (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about 3 months ago | (#46799685)

"Sometimes I wonder if democracy is dead."

Not dead, just taking a deceptively deep sleep. In the US we still have the possibility of democratic action. So far. The problem is that people just don't participate because their lives are comfortable enough or they are too busy just trying to survive. They don't take the easy actions (voting and political participation) and then when pressed they feel they have to take the drastic actions (aiming guns at Federal officers in the dessert). It's stupid and it's not forward thinking, but that is just how human beings generally live.

Re:Who watches the watchers (2)

Jawnn (445279) | about 3 months ago | (#46799691)

Sometimes I wonder if democracy is dead.

In the U.S.A., it died quite some time ago. The U.S. is more accurately called an oligarchy now. The will of "the people", not to mention their interests, is (distant) secondary consideration. That much is obvious to anyone willing to actually look. Alas, most are not. Instead they allow themselves to be satisfied with the bread and circuses that are so freely handed to them.

Re:Who watches the watchers (1)

thsths (31372) | about 3 months ago | (#46800111)

> Instead they allow themselves to be satisfied with the bread and circuses that are so freely handed to them.

Funny, because I thought those cost money. Now in countries with a generous benefit systems, you get lodging, food and cable TV included in your benefits...

Re:Who watches the watchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799919)

We need oversight for government, and we need oversight for corporations.
We the people* don't give a crap as long as our ipad can stream entertainment.

Sometimes I wonder if democracy is dead.

I might accept an argument about Google, since it's essentially how people "get around" on the internet and other than Bing (hahaha) they've pretty much bought out all the competition. But Facebook? Really? That's about as perfect of an example of a real-world Democracy as anything is. The ONLY reason why it's popular is because people ELECTED to use it.

Re:Who watches the watchers (3, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 3 months ago | (#46800037)

I'm not sure why there's all this hand wringing over corporate influence on the political process, I'd much prefer corporations having a say than some of the more powerful ideological interests that influence politicians.

I say this because corporations are basically greedy.

Greed doesn't care about your skin colour, your gender, your nationality, greed isn't interested in reframing the social dialogue in order to deconstruct gender roles that are constantly evolving anyway, greed won't murder you or drive you out of a job because you think the wrong way or hold the wrong opinion. All greed cares about is its own self interests. I trust greed, I know what it is and what it wants, and I can reasonably reliably predict what it's going to do next. Greed is in fact the great equaliser that is the holy grail of most progressive politics.

I mean putative corporate dystopias can hardly hold a candle to some of the actual real life ideological dystopias which have existed.

And so I don't get worried about corporations influencing governments. As long as they're kept at one anothers' throats (capitalism) things are working more or less the way they should.

What the hell is this article? (1, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#46799623)

The implication seems to be that we cease google and face book as state assets... nationalize them.

No. We're not some pathetic third world dystopian shithole... yet. And until we are, modern, civilized, and rational countries don't go around stealing the assets of companies or individuals. Its moronic. You do that and you discourage improvement. That's what happens in countries that never get better. They got desperate at some point and they stole from the people. The people responded by not improving anything. They stopped. They know that if they improve anything the government or some other powerful person or group will take it from them.

So they leave the stones in the fields. They don't paint the houses. They don't build anything that they think someone might want to take from them.

Its a nightmare. DO NOT steal from the people. They will shut down and go into survival mode.

Re:What the hell is this article? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#46799767)

yet what you seem to be advocating is that corporates can steal the assets of the state!

If a corporate gets large and/or powerful enough that it becomes a governmental player, then it needs either regulation to prevent it from becoming that powerful (eg, broken up), or nationalised in the interests of the well-running government for everyone.

Nationalising these businesses is not stealing from the people - 99% of the people don't have a stake in Google being a privately run company anyway. If the government took them over, I doubt anyone would notice... except maybe our privacy would be protected better :-)

Re:What the hell is this article? (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#46799863)

No I'm not.

If I build something then it isn't the state's.

By all means, tax me at the same rate you tax everyone else... but you don't get to take something from me just because you want it.

Get in that mode and you'll discourage people from building great or valuable things. Because they'll know that some weasel eyed dickless asshat will come along and cease it at gun point.

You either let people keep what they build or you society will go backwards.

Re:What the hell is this article? (5, Insightful)

ranton (36917) | about 3 months ago | (#46799957)

You either let people keep what they build or you society will go backwards.

Any absolute statement about topics like government or economics are almost guaranteed to be absurd (notice I said almost guaranteed).

Free market capitalism is great. It has created the most powerful economies the world has ever known. Even state run economies have only been successful when they take full advantage of global free market capitalism.

But capitalism still needs to be kept in check. You can't just take advantage of its benefits and ignore the perils. Nothing is free. Capitalism is used because it is in the best interests of society, not to benefit only the best and brightest. When situations arise that are no longer in society's best interests, it is our responsibility to react. We have had to break up other monopolies in the past to keep competition strong, and we will have to do it many times in the future.

Breaking up Standard Oil and Bell Systems did not collapse capitalism, so I really doubt that breaking up or nationalizing a few tech companies will destroy it either.

(note I am not commenting on whether anything needs to be done about Google or Facebook, just that saying we should do nothing no matter what is a silly argument)

Re:What the hell is this article? (0)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#46800031)

Its not about capitalism.

This is the mistakes myopic socialist fuckwits keep making. They think this is an ideological issue.

Its more elemental. If those that produce are convinced they won't keep or benefit from what they produce they won't produce and everyone suffers.

That's even works with other species let alone humans.

Fuck over producers and they'll stop and everyone suffers.

Re:What the hell is this article? (3, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 3 months ago | (#46800157)

But crack their wrists when they abuse their power and fewer will abuse their power.

Take over or break up companies that get "too big" and they amazingly will manage to exist right under the "too big" line and constantly lobby / use lawyers to find way to get bigger.

Unfettered corporate power is turning the U.S. into an oligarchy. This ends badly for a long time for many citizens and then finally ends badly for the oligarchs too. It's not a good path to head down.

Re:What the hell is this article? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800281)

Unfettered corporate power is turning the U.S. into an oligarchy.

That's what it is and what it always has been. Our system is poorly designed to such a degree that people vote for 'the lesser of two evils', which ensures that two parties always dominate. Actually, it's more like a monopoly, as the two parties (known as The One Party) are the same on any truly important issues (fundamental liberties).

Re:What the hell is this article? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 3 months ago | (#46800183)

Its more elemental. If those that produce are convinced they won't keep or benefit from what they produce they won't produce and everyone suffers.

Its worse than that. They do not understand that everyone that trades benefits when trades are a choice. The "Free" in "Free Trade" means Liberty. You are also Free to not trade. These are not ironically the same people that complain about things that they are willing consumers of....

I don't think that its the "socialist" philosophy that has turned them into "fuckwits" as you say -- I think its simply that they are Statists. See their calls to confiscate Google properties. "Nationalize them" indeed.

Re:What the hell is this article? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 months ago | (#46799993)

You either let people keep what they build or you society will go backwards.

Doesn't that rather depend on whether the things they build are any good?

Re:What the hell is this article? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#46800009)

but we're not talking about what you build, we're talking a corporate that has grown so big they are a danger to free governance of everyone.

By all means, you build something and stick to building it - we've got no problem with you. But once you get to interfering with government, trying to influence democratic process with your buckets of cash, then we have a problem that needs addressing.

Regardless of that, we need regulation of big businesses as the market forces that allow self-regulation to occur break down. This is why we do not allow monopolies to remain in place, for one example, rules on what banks can do for another.

Re:What the hell is this article? (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#46800073)

Ah, here we are then.

Tell me... who is allowed to donate money to politics and who is not? I ask because I suspect there is some revenue source near and dear to your political faction that must be exempted from your rule.

I've seen this too many time to not be cynical about it. Every faction says the other's revenue sources are wrong but its are fine.

Its pretty much uniform self serving horseshit.

The courts have already said its all legal under the first amendment. You don't like it... then lets talk about applying your rule to every donation from every source.

Big unions for example... you want to cut that money off?

Re:What the hell is this article? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#46800025)

And yet, if you become large enough, you begin to warp the lines of power. Something somewhere has to give if democracy is to be preserved.

Re:What the hell is this article? (1, Redundant)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 months ago | (#46799951)

The implication seems to be that we cease google and face book as state assets...

Can't we nero or constantine them instead?

If you're using a speech-to-text program can you tell us what it is, so we don't accidentally use it?

News? (1)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about 3 months ago | (#46799625)

Money = Power. Old news.

Re:News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799647)

Money = Bitcoins, Bitcoins = bits, bits = computers.

If money rules the world, then nerds now rule the world.

Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' USA (5, Insightful)

elwinc (663074) | about 3 months ago | (#46799643)

The Supreme Court's 'Citizens United' decision makes it possible for billionaires to pour unimaginable amounts of money into each election cycle. Some of thse billionaires lean right, like the Koch brothers, and some don't like Google's owners. Personally I would like to see Congress pass laws reversing 'Citizens United,' but until that happy day, we're kind of on the sidelines as the big players battle it out.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (0)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799743)

The "big players" get the same number of votes as everybody else: One

At the end of the day the only difference between the "big players" and everybody else is the size of their respective megaphones, since money buys a nicer megaphone. That difference matters a lot less than it used to (the internet cheaply empowers anyone whose ideas can command a following) and even if it didn't the 1st Amendment doesn't allow for the infringement of speech in the name of equal access.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799793)

The internet is great for public opinion, but money is what politicians worship. When is the last time people got together online to pour millions into immigration reform or affect the outcome of the keystone pipeline?

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799827)

Actually it's power that politicians worship (haven't you ever seen House of Cards?), which is an entirely different concept than money. To be sure, there's overlap between the two, but they are not one and the same. At the end of the day the best way to send a message to a politician is to vote them and/or their party out of office.

To answer your question about Keystone and Immigration policy: Few people vote on either of those issues. Take a look at the Second Amendment if you want an example of an issue that people are passionate enough to base their votes on, an issue that has little to do with money and everything to do with pure political enthusiasm.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 3 months ago | (#46799931)

Ask Warren Buffet about $$ to halt the keystone pipeline genius.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

davecb (6526) | about 3 months ago | (#46799843)

I'd suggest money buys a more effective microphone, as one gets on the big newspapers and the big, high-readership sites, far more easily if you have the bucks.

It's on things like IETF discussions that money doesn't help as much, as it's hard to find people to astroturf on technical subjects, and they rapidly become well-known.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800019)

At the end of the day, they get to vote for the candidates they deemed acceptable. No other candidate will get funding as 0.05% of the population funds politics - the rich. You get to vote for one of these candidates too. You can vote for "3rd party" and "spoil" your vote, I guess. Anyway, enjoy your "democracy".

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46799855)

Some of thse billionaires lean right, like the Koch brothers, and some don't like Google's owners.

Google's owners lean right, but talk left. Like many other tech companies, they donate to liberal advocacy groups, while using tax shelters to shift their profits overseas. They are all for big liberal government programs as long as some else pays for them. The only difference between Google's owners and the Koch brothers, is that with Google you get an extra layer of hypocrisy.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799873)

They are all for big liberal government programs as long as some else pays for them.

You've just described 100% of the American electorate.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

tanujt (1909206) | about 3 months ago | (#46799875)

Yay, 'free market capitalism'.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#46799945)

Personally I would like to see Congress pass laws reversing 'Citizens United,'

You do understand that when the Supremes declare something unconstitutional, Congress is not allowed to pass laws reversing it, right?

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 3 months ago | (#46800033)

Those laws reversing it are properly called "Constitutional Amendments".

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

khallow (566160) | about 3 months ago | (#46800181)

US Congress can start a constitutional amendment process, but they can't make it happen by themselves.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800045)

No, not necessarily. The Supreme Court rulings are often (in fact, usually) couched in very specific terms. You can craft a new law that won't run afoul of the court guidelines. It's done all the time. May not be possible secondary to political constraints, but them's the breaks.

Re:Just another facet of post 'Citizens United' US (1)

khallow (566160) | about 3 months ago | (#46800195)

You can craft a new law that won't run afoul of the court guidelines.

And that can be done with the Citizens United ruling since the problem was that corporations were explicitly banned from doing activities that individuals could do. Of course, preventing individuals from donating to campaigns might run afoul of other constitutional restrictions such as the First Amendment.

True Elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799655)

There's no truer election—no more explicit mandate—than voluntary commerce.

With a superpower that emerges from voluntary interaction, the worst that could happen is that it begin to employ involuntary interaction; that is, the worst that could happen is that it become a... government!

Re:True Elections (1)

ranton (36917) | about 3 months ago | (#46799987)

There's no truer election—no more explicit mandate—than voluntary commerce.

I wish I had mod points. I was about to post the same thing but I don't see the need to repeat.

It is absurd to complain that companies are a problem because they are not elected. Society votes every millisecond of every day when we decide to log into Facebook or use Google. We have far more control over what Google does than what our government does, because we can stop funding Google without being thrown in jail.

Companies can still become massive organizations that need to be kept in check by society, but the same can be said of elected governments.

Re:True Elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800199)

Which is why multinationals cozying up to governments so closely is a problem.

They might not be able to use the force of state to make you buy their product (well, minus the Individual Mandate in the U.S....) but they can use profits from government contracts and the sway they have in legislatures to ensure that the barriers to entry keep new competitors out of the field.

There's a group of people who have spent many millions of dollars to ensure that they are the only ones who can make use of a cartoon mouse whose original creator is many years dead, and whose image is part of the public domain in everything but the eyes of the law. If you use the image of the mouse in the wrong way, you will be ruined--even if your usage is likely a fair use, the sheer asymmetry of your influence in the legal system will ensure that your life is miserable for years or decades. It's hard to imagine a state of affairs where this group of people is not able to extend their exclusive right to exploit this image indefinitely.

As a minor side effect, the law of the land will be twisted in such a way that creative industries are stifled, and a whole segment of lawyers and experts will be able to make a lucrative living by negating the negative effects of rules that shouldn't exist in the first place.

All to protect an imaginary mouse.

but we did elect them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799659)

Sorry, they were elected by us by the fact we use them. we support them, allow them to grow, because we decided they were tools we wished to use,

Solution (3, Interesting)

StripedCow (776465) | about 3 months ago | (#46799667)

Just allow companies to only grow up until they have, say, 1000 employees.
After that, they can only split.

What this solves:
No more conglomerates, companies form modular structures, output of 1 company can be reused by another company at a useful granularity.
This leads to much more competition, where previously only monopolies or quasi-monopolies were possible.
This, in turn, reduces and redistributes power.

Re:Solution (1, Flamebait)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799749)

Just allow companies to only grow up until they have, say, 1000 employees.

Can we apply this theory to Federal, State, and Local Government?

Re:Solution (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#46799883)

ok, so I then hire a bunch of "interns" or "part time employees" or some other way around the law. that is a kind of arbitrary rule that screws over the regular man while the people with money can skirt the law, oh I can only have 1000 employees? well ill just make a new company, that i run, and hire all the employees. Or I will only hire temp employess, from the temp agency that I own and run.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799907)

Of course, if company A takes only orders from company B, that will show in the books, and A could be penalized for that.

So there are no easy "workarounds".

Re:Solution (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#46799971)

if you really dont think those with money wont figure out a work around i got this here bridge to sell you

its a global economy, if the US doesnt want to be business friendly, the companies will move overseas and destroy the country faster than the government could ever do on its own

Re:Solution (1)

ranton (36917) | about 3 months ago | (#46800017)

ok, so I then hire a bunch of "interns" or "part time employees" or some other way around the law. that is a kind of arbitrary rule that screws over the regular man while the people with money can skirt the law, oh I can only have 1000 employees? well ill just make a new company, that i run, and hire all the employees. Or I will only hire temp employess, from the temp agency that I own and run.

You forgot the bigger elephant in the room ... automation. While this kind of regulation would likely topple society, it would bring huge advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. Instead of hiring 10,000 employees, companies will have to hire a few hundred more engineers because regulations will stop them from having humans do the work.

Re:Solution (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#46800115)

Im not sure how I missed that one when I was just making that argument the other day when I was discussing the increase in minimum wage. Eventually it becomes cheaper to buy a bunch of machines to do the same job as the people

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799901)

Wow, that's stupid. That causes far more economic problems than it solves politically. Cap a company at 1,000 employees? So basically no more car manufacturers, defense industry manufacturers, (all of which, while having questionable political power do provide a substantial tangible benefit to the economy)? What about no retailers at discount stores that provide for the poor (Wal-Mart has the lowest prices of most goods bought by the lower strata of income employees precisely because it keeps costs low and pays lower wages for its 1.2M workers)? There are thousands of companies with over 1,000 employees that are a net gain to society despite the ills that also come along with those.

Don't go into politics if you can't think out that far.

Re:Solution (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#46799969)

Just allow companies to only grow up until they have, say, 1000 employees.

I'd be interested in seeing whether something like the Hoover Dam or a supertanker could be built with a workforce of 1000 people. Or how much an automobile would cost if the largest auto plant were only 3% the size of the current largest plant. Or how much computers would cost if the largest chip fab were 3% of its current size...

Or have you never heard of economies of scale?

Re:Solution (0)

StripedCow (776465) | about 3 months ago | (#46800003)

Just like a company can hire 1000 people, a company could hire a 1000 companies.
Those companies, are, however still able to work for other companies as they see fit.
So the "economies of scale" are automatically transformed into a hierarchical structure, where each component is easily replaced by another component.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800221)

I'm amazed at this line of thinking. What possible difference or utility could there be, aside from making jobs for a few tens of thousands more bureaucrats to shuffle the mountains of useless paperwork that would be involved. I guess it will be a gold rush for corporate lawyers too.

It's ok that corporations are a fiction, so long as they are a useful fiction--and you don't confuse them with reality.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800065)

You just relegated civilization to, say, the bronze age. You do realize that the big IC fabs have more than 1000 employees in just one building? You'd never get much done. No oil. No ICs. Limited electricity.

Now, some people would get a hard on about this sort of society and arguably it would solve some of the evils inherent in this one. Careful what you ask for, you just might get it (not likely in this situation, though)>

Unelected?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799671)

No one forces me to use Google, I made that choice on my own.

Re:Unelected?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799785)

Did you, now? If you don't think your choices are being heavily influenced by outside parties, you need to take a long, close look at how things are being run.

Why concerned about only one side of Keystone XL? (2)

Mark_in_Brazil (537925) | about 3 months ago | (#46799719)

Interesting that the OP is so deeply concerned with tech companies' lobbying against Keystone XL, but not concerned with the Koch brothers, whose organizations have spent a nine-digit amount of dollars on campaigns and advertisements (often misleading or just plain false) to influence campaigns, with an eye toward issues of interest to the Koch brothers themselves, like getting limits on campaign donations removed and, just to pick a random example, getting the Keystone XL pipeline approved.

Re:Why concerned about only one side of Keystone X (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46799795)

but not concerned with the Koch brothers

What's the deal with this Liberal/Progressive/Leftist obsession with two people that the vast majority (85% in one poll I saw) of the American people have never even heard of? It's like the Democrats are already trying to rationalize why they've lost the 2014 mid-terms. It wasn't the platform, the electorate's exhaustion with the party, the bad economy, or even the usual historical trend away from a two term President.... it was those Machiavellian brothers and Citizens United!

Seriously, it's counter-productive to keep beating that particular drum, and the defeatism is a bit premature to say the least.

Incidentally, I see your Koch brothers and raise you George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. The right is obsessed with those two figures, though not to the same degree the left is obsessed with the Koch brothers.

Re:Why concerned about only one side of Keystone X (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799933)

Actually the left, think Rachel Maddow and MSNBC, are not focused exclusively on the Koch brothers. Articles have been written and shows have been broadcast detailing how 80% or more of the billionaire cash goes to right-wing causes. The "citizens united" decision was a straight party line vote in the supreme court to unshackle the big money interests spending in our "elections". There was a fig leaf in allowing almost irrelevant trade unions the same privilege of spending as much as they want too. BTW you can keep Bloomberg, not really a lefty there. Of course most most don't remember that the campaign finance laws that the court has now gutted with another recent decision were passed in response to the corruption of Richard Nixon and his corporate friends back in the Watergate days. Welcome to to our new Oligarchy folks, billionaires dump cash into the system to make things run to suit them, think Russia or Brazil. A few billionaires at the top serviced by just enough "middle class" types to provide the requisite infrastructure and the rest of us living in cardboard shanty towns.

Re:Why concerned about only one side of Keystone X (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 3 months ago | (#46800043)

It's like the Democrats are already trying to rationalize why they've lost the 2014 mid-terms.

They want the Koch brothers silenced just like they want Rush Limbaugh silenced. It is unimaginable to them that others might disagree with them without the root of that disagreement being pure greed.

They just cannot believe that half the country disagrees with them, even though clearly half the country isnt "the 2%" They truly believe that "the 2%" are greedy and the other 48% that also disagree with them are "too stupid to vote in their own self interest." This is of course a catch-22 .. their logic is that the 2% are guilty because they are greedy, and the rest of the people that arent liberals are guilty because they arent greedy.

I'm not a Republican. I just cant fucking stand the dripping hypocrisy, nor the unimaginable logical fallacies of the fucking American Democrats any longer. I used to think the Democrats were liberal. They fucking aren't. They are just pure petty intolerant fucks with a giant splash of jealousy coupled with unashamed levels of outlandish hypocrisy.

Re:Why concerned about only one side of Keystone X (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46800109)

I'm not a Republican. I just cant fucking stand the dripping hypocrisy, nor the unimaginable logical fallacies of the fucking American Democrats any longer.

Reminds me of a quote: "I hate conservatives but I really fucking hate liberals." -Matt Stone [wikipedia.org] , co-creator of South Park

Big money (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800059)

The Koch brothers epitmize how big money [opensecrets.org] has taken over politics.

Koch Industries currently leads the oil and gas industry as the top contributor to federal candidates and parties, and is the fifth highest lobbying spender in the industry this year. Soros' hedge fund, Soros Fund Management, has also lobbied at the federal level, but employees have not made campaign donations through a Soros-sponsored political action committee.

How business interests trump individual interests. How they are distorting and even eliminating rational discussion - case in point: "What's the deal with this Liberal/Progressive/Leftist obsession" - "Liberal/Leftist"?

The Kochs are out to screw us. Soros gave over $8 billion to causes [wikipedia.org] related to human rights, public health, and education.

Here, we the little people are fighting among ourselves while the billionaire class is screwing us over - even harming us Kochs want to enslave us. Soros wants to educate us and make sure people have basic human rights.

It's striking how "environmentalism" has turned into this disparaging term when in fact it's about preserving our health - everyone's health and well being.

the Democrats are already trying to rationalize why they've lost the 2014 mid-terms. It wasn't the platform, the electorate's exhaustion with the party, the bad economy, ...

If the Republicans have their way, the economy would get even worse. They want to cut unemployment extensions, raise H1-b limit and eliminate the social safety nets.

That's why the '08 crash wasn't like the Great Depression because of all those "progressive" safety nets.

As far a "losing" the mid-terms, mid terms are mostly old people coming out to make sure gays can't marry, poor people can't abortions (rich people jump on a plane and get one where it's legal), and basically lower taxes while protecting their medicare, SS and making sure we have a strong military - keeping up the military industral complex: keeping the status quo.

Re:Big money (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#46800089)

Soros wants to educate us and make sure people have basic human rights.

Self defense is a basic human right, how's he feel about that one?

P.S., That's a rhetorical question.

Re:Why concerned about only one side of Keystone X (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#46799903)

what is with everyone having a boner for the koch brothers?? what I mean by this is how can anyone stand there with a straight face and invoke them, without also pointing out that obama has pretty much been fundraiser in chief, hollywood spends billions a year on democrats, and the democrats have their own savior in george soros?

I would LOVE to take all of that money out of politics as well, ALL of it, the koch money, the hollywood money, the soros money, and the FB and google money.

Re:Why concerned about only one side of Keystone X (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800091)

The Koch brothers only mine smelly, dark things that go in the country's infrastructure.

Hollywood has tits (and to be politically correct these days, penises and other secondary or tertiary sexual characteristics).

Where are your priorities man?

public wants the oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799929)

the american public wants canadian oil (in part from theoretical lower transportation costs). a pipeline is the cheapest way to transport that oil. oil is currently being moved by more expensive trains instead. if the public understands that the keystone pipeline will make oil several cents cheaper per gallon, they will support the pipeline, lobbyists be damned. it is obama using his presidential veto that is holding the whole thing up, and keystone xl is not important enough for the republicans to shut down the government.

Meet the new boss... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46799725)

...same as the old one. I mean, those who worry so much most likely aren't worried that Facebook and Google will become the architects of the law, they're worried that they will cease to be the co-architects.

USA = country founded as a republic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799747)

Yet CLAIMS to be a democracy - when it'sREALLY an oligarchy (where those with the ca$h make the laws, in their favor, constantly via bribery (let's call a spade, a spade here - not the term to "desensitize you" being used, in "lobbying"...)).

Re:USA = country founded as a republic (0)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#46799955)

the only people who claim we are a democracy are those who didnt take a 3rd grade history class. its not a democracy, hell at first the people didnt even vote for senators, the states did. With the education level of most of us, im not so sure we shouldnt go back to that

Google focus? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799751)

Funny how all the bitching is being directed at Google (and, to a lesser extent, Oracle, Apple and Facebook) when it was Microsoft that got caught stuffing standards bodies...

Why does google care about oil and immigration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799805)

By virtue of the mindset of the people google uses to produce and use its goods and services I feel they're aligned with making the world a better place more than people who are on the other side of these particular issues. Oil extraction fucks up the environment, and as one commenter in TFA said their motive is probably based on money. Why would google give a fuck about oil pipelines? They're not in the petroleum business. Some further insight on this from a qualified expert would be helpful.

My baseless assumption is that it does long term damage to the potential for the united states to be an attractive place to live and hurts their long term ability to attract top talent from around the world because of the environmental damage. There may be another aspect to this I'm missing. This is consistent with their advocacy for immigration reform, but I'm not an analyist and have no hard data to back this up. Once again, a link to something substantial on this subject would be appreciated and improve the quality of discussion if anyone has a better source than linkbait and wikipedia.

For what it's worth I don't think it really matters in and of itself that large corporate entities interact with politics. As individuals we have no meaningful connection with it, and if you're here you're too incompetent, poor, or indifferent to have any meaningful effect at all. If you could make a difference you wouldn't be here.

Re:Why does google care about oil and immigration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799947)

Oil extraction fucks up the environment, and as one commenter in TFA said their motive is probably based on money. Why would google give a fuck about oil pipelines?

Why would google give a fuck about abortions or gay marriage?

The answer is in your previous statement:

By virtue of the mindset of the people google uses to produce and use its goods and services I feel they're aligned with making the world a better place

Thanks to America being a two party representative democracy, your choice is to align with one group of people and all of their ideals, or with the other group of people and all of their ideals. You don't get to pick and choose which ideals you think would actually run the country best.

Re:Why does google care about oil and immigration? (1)

theodp (442580) | about 3 months ago | (#46799963)

Don't doubt they're concerned about the environment, but Google also has a financial stake in energy. From Google Reaps Tax Breaks in $1.4 Billion Clean Energy Bet [bloomberg.com] : "The Galt solar farm, 20 miles south of Sacramento, is one of 15 alternative-energy projects that Google has funded since 2010 as part of a more than $1.4 billion investment in clean power production. That makes the Internet search giant the biggest backer of U.S. alternative-energy projects over that stretch, excluding financial institutions and utilities, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance."

See what can be done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799813)

www.wolf-pac.com

shareholder interests? (3, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#46799817)

one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders

really? How does an oil pipeline have anything to do with anything Google shareholders care about?

Similarly, how does immigration reform benefit Facebook shareholders, who I assume, would be more interested in reducing immigration - especially cheap-ass tech workers than only benefit Facebook executives in keeping pay of those shareholders down.

Who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799867)

People are jealous, google and Facebook where both started by geeks who had nothing. Proves the American ideal and dream is still alive. If your too lazy and uninformed; that is your problem. Go read a book instead of playing a game someone else wrote, stop watching tv and study something useful (Not Art, history or some other jobless entry).

Stop using Facebook if it bothers you.

Nothing new here folks (2, Insightful)

jmd (14060) | about 3 months ago | (#46799881)

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

Actually I would argue that the period after WWII where a middle class emerged was an anomoly rather than a norm. And we Americans got so complacent we lost it and the oligarchy wrestled the power back into their hands. And the only reason that period happened was because 2 world wars and 1 depression temporarily destroyed capitalism's grip over people.

Facebook is already in bed with the govt (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 3 months ago | (#46799905)

Look at how much of your data - that you posted thinking it was "private" or "personal" - they have already given away to the government. To say that they are partnered with the federal government is an understatement. Facebook might be the greatest gift the government has ever received from a company, excepting the massive contributions that come to all sides from the health insurance industry.

Re:Facebook is already in bed with the govt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800203)

Stop whining. Just think of it as a free backup.

Google Can And Should Be Blamed (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 3 months ago | (#46799925)

Google can't be blamed for this: one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders,

Yes, they can, and should, be blamed for this. Pro-social corporations should be rewarded for their behavior. Anti-social corporations should be punished. This is a pretty basic part of free market theory and the power of the purse. Stop repeating this sociopath-loving dogma as though it had any relation to healthy free market economics. Public backlash against despotic corporations is a very important correcting force in the free market.

Re:Google Can And Should Be Blamed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46800081)

Yes, they can, and should, be blamed for this.

No, they should not be blamed. The people who continue to use them should be blamed.

G and F do what their customers say it is OK for them to do. No one is compelled to use Google or Facebook. If you don't like the way they act, you are fee to stop using them at any time. And in fact many of us have, but we are out-voted 10000:1 by those who think they are acting acceptably. In the end, they can only exist with the permission of those to support them financially by using their services and being part of their for-profit personal data collection. People overwhelmingly are OK with that, as demonstrated by their continued financial support.

where the fuck on the google (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 3 months ago | (#46799959)

IPO shareholder or other shareholder information is the text where it says that the company exists to lobby for benefit of shareholders?

watf? is this again the same shit about how "a stock company has to be doing 100% and use all the dirty tricks to get maximum profit or else they're illegal since stock companies by the law have to try to do that" shit?? a stock company can exist for variety of purposes and goals, "making profit at any cost" is rarely in their stated goals or strategies.

(and since googles famous tagline for this is "do no evil" one could easily argue that if they engage in "evil" lobbying to benefit just their shareholders then they are in fact committing fraud against shareholders. and by the way if schmidt is using googles resources to lobby for exemptions for him then he is actually engaging in fraud... against other stockholders)

Same story, different day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799965)

This has always been true in all forms of politics since the beginning of time. Hell, in the turn of the century it was the Carnegies and Rockefellers and JP Morgans. Later it was the Hughes and the Fords. Now it's the Schmidts and the Zuckerburgs. The country still survived and thrived despite this, and eventually one group of powerful people falls out of favor and another emerges, but the country survives.

Regardless policy is not shaped by these people. An idealist like Schmidt or Obama or hell anyone can only influence policy in small matters, but the important things are shaped by geo-politics. Sure, this may delay the keystone pipeline, but it will be built. It will be built because Asia is a growing energy economy and North America is growing energy exporter; Schmidt can shape policy all he wants but the power gained by North America from being an energy exporter to Asia is too important to pass up.

Obama may be a liberal Dem, which means his energy policy of course favors environmentalism, but he's not a stupid man, and the power gained from the Keystone Pipeline in conjunction with the shale gas revolution puts the US on a path to be an energy exporter larger than the Middle East or Russia in the next 20 years; when you're talking about the leverage that gives you over other countries then environmental idealism goes right out the window. Keystone is just a matter of time before it's complete.

Re:Same story, different day (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 3 months ago | (#46800125)

They thrived when they were trust busted up. Not before

ha? (1)

superwiz (655733) | about 3 months ago | (#46799991)

What do you mean "unelected"? Every time someone uses them, they do so by choice. They are elected every single day... unlike some other "elected" institutions.

What about.... (1)

Simulant (528590) | about 3 months ago | (#46800011)



Maybe we could go after the industries that paved the way, first.... Big Pharma, Oil, Defense, etc...

You have a point about Google but unless the others are dealt with, does it really matter? If the contest is between the corporations then, so far, Google remains the lesser evil.

Strangely rooting for Microsoft in 2014 (3, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 3 months ago | (#46800117)

I was an anti MS zealout and linux fan boy back in 2000. Hence why I choose my name. I was trying to find a post where I rant about MS after the DOJ sided with MS where I threatened to quit IT if MS won!! etc

But today it is different. Mainly because I prefer 3 mobile players rather than 2. 2 search engines rather than 1. Yes it is still bad for competition but this hatred for Microsoft stealing and monopolizing everything is so 10 years ago.

It is like being afraid of IBM today. Weird.

Even if you Android and Linux full time a 30% marketshare for Windows Phone will ensure Google wont get too evil and incredibly lazy and wont' set W3C standards to its own version of IE6 in Chrome. Apple is pretty small outside the US and Canada. No one in China even knows about the iPhone and Android is like Windows of the 1990s in PC's over there with 95% marketshare in the smartphone market.

Many slashdotters are still mad at MS and refuse to touch a win based OS. Fine, I feel the same about Sony. However things change and any company whether it is IBM, Microsoft, or even Google can be evil. Remember when Apple was cool again a decade ago and Steve Jobs was a nice guy who could do no wrong with opensource? Gee look what happened when Apple got power? YIKES. Not so cool and hip anymore.

I think competition where no one can set the standards is what is needed. Another facebook may come along someday if it can do something people demand. Myspace was all the rage too you know. I still wonder how facebook beat myspace?

Google search ... that is heard to beat. They are too powerful and the cost of entry is too great to compete. Google though in its current state is nimble and quick to update. Once it settles down to an ugly corporate behemonth with MBA's afraid of change where cost accountants run the show it will then become vulnerable if and only if someone can make a superior product with much much limited resources.

they are not unelected (1, Insightful)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 3 months ago | (#46800175)

The customers voted by opting to use their products (or by letting to be used as such), thus giving these companies their power.

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