Who’s Afraid of the Big [Tech] Wolf?
By Adele Fairclough
At the end of last month, The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) issued a record fine of €1.2 billion to Meta, owner of Facebook, for infringing GDPR through EU-US data transfers. And the tech giant has now lodged an appeal with the High Court against the IDPC.
Across the pond, security concerns have led to talk of TikTok bans across entire states, and the app has already been banned from all government-issued devices.
And, while tech giants like Microsoft and Google battle it out to see who can win the GPT war, AI experts themselves are warning of the need for regulation, or the end of humanity as we know it.
Clearly, there’s a feeling that Big Tech has been allowed to run free long enough, and now it’s time to pull in the reins. But how warranted are these fears?
Rational and irrational fears
While the constant bad news can be oppressive – and at times seem like a Big Tech-bashing bandwagon – a lot of the concerns raised are not new.
For example, many groups have long been calling for regulation of social media platforms due to the harm that certain content, like hate speech and mis/disinformation, can do to the billions of users worldwide. Not to mention the danger to children and teenager’s mental health.
In the UK, the online safety bill seeks to protect children from harmful content online. While the legislation is still at the committee stage, it already has critics on both sides – with some saying the bill is not strong enough, and others saying it will restrict innovation and investment in the UK.
More recently, at London Tech Week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pitched the UK as the home for “global AI safety regulation”, highlighting the continued importance of both the benefits and potential dangers of AI to leaders worldwide.
The need for tech literacy
If we are to solve these issues, and regulate Big Tech effectively, we first need to understand the tech industry as a whole, as well as the specifics of how each tool and platform works.
That’s why tech education is so important. As we continue to face unprecedented challenges arising from technological advances, we will need more experts to advise on solutions – like regulation – to ensure that the tech industry continues to thrive, whilst ensuring the safety of the people that make all this possible to begin with.
Of course, a big part of our job in B2B tech PR is education - spreading the word about new and innovative technologies for a variety of audiences – from industry experts, to the lay individual. Communicating the challenges technology can solve is one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of the job.
At the end of the day, tech, whether big or small, is a tool created and wielded by humans. I’ve no doubt we’ll come up with the solutions needed to effectively regulate these tools in time – whilst still allowing for the creativity and innovation this industry embodies.