The events of early Jan 2021

The events of the first week of 2021 have made me reflect on many of the topics Paul Penn and I have discussed Cyberpsychology teaching over the last few years, and quite how rapidly the landscape can change. As recently as September last year Facebook were maintaining that they had no problem with overt lies in political advertising on their platform and yet this week we have seen Twitter permanently ban the President of the United States from their platform, and the suggestion that Apple and Google may move to remove the President’s supporters preferred replacement for Twitter (Parler) from their respective App stores. It would seem that what we saw as a settled status quo only six months ago (i.e. Tech giants having no interest in policing the online world, unfettered opportunity for political and religious radicalisation and an assumption that the tech gianys were too powerful for government oversight), has shifted dramatically.

All of this would seem to have impications for what we study in cyberpsychology. It makes me wonder if future historians may see the early years on the internet-age as something of ‘The Wild West’ with the events of early 2021 being a tipping point, or whether by the end of 2021 we will see a return to the tech-giants ‘do what you like’ attitude. If what we’ve seen this week does turn out to be ‘the new normal’, it’s not without it’s problems.

Earlier this week I read a fascinating article on the legal implications of regulating the on-line world which concluded that just because regulation was desirable, it doesn’t mean that it’s possible. It also raised the the centuries old question :

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

or ‘who will watch the watchers?’. Over the last week we seem to have moved from no one watching anyone online, to the tech giants appointing themselves as the regulators of online behaviour. The difficulty is, of course, what drives the tech giants decisions on what they do and don’t allow ? Whilst I’m sure the tech giants would argue that they are acting out of an alturistic support for the public good, it’s difficult not to think that they might be also thinking about their future profits.

I’m intrigued by the idea that 2021, in the cyber world, maybe dominated by the competing interests of the tech-giants :

  1. As the covid pandemic fades later into 2021, Amazon’s dominance of the retail world is going to become more apparent when we see closed shops in the High street. WIll this lead to calls go controls on Amazon’s growth.
  2. Apple will launch explicit privacy controls on all of their platforms. This might seem inconsequential, but it directly attacks Facebook’s business model and is thus likely to lead to a huge confrontation between the two tech giants.

All in all I think 2021 ia going to be an interesting year for cyberpsychology (IW)

Published by Teaching Rational Thinking

I am currently Director of Education & Experience for the University of East London School of Psychology. I have a particular interest in the teaching of 'critical thinking'.

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