Smiley-faced monopolists

A note from the editor

Vanessa Baird

The digital titans unmasked

‘It’s a Faustian pact, but hell seems a long way away’

‘Yes, but personally, I don’t mind,’ said a good friend and dedicated Facebook user. We had been talking about privacy on the internet and the ever-increasing power of the digital giants.

My friend’s approach is undoubtedly shared by many of us, who make regular use of efficient and immensely successful services like Google, Facebook and Amazon – the main companies that feature in this month’s Big Story. We have traded our privacy for something we find useful and put on hold our support for ethical shopping in exchange for the ease of low (or no) price and almost-instant gratification. It’s a Faustian pact, alright... and hell may be nearer than we think.

I have been surprised, while working on this month’s Big Story, just how far down the line we are; how deeply exploitative and anti-democratic is this new ‘surveillance capitalism’ under which we now live. This month’s contributors include such leading lights in the field as security expert Bruce Schneier, psychologist Robert Epstein and engineer and software activist Prabir Purkayastha. Maybe their arguments will prompt a bit of a rethink among those of my friend’s disposition...

Elsewhere in this month’s issue we visit Toronto’s world-famous HotDocs festival, catch up with Máxima Acuña, the courageous Peruvian farmer who is standing up to US mining giant Newmont, and report on Malaysia’s slide towards authoritarianism.

Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist co-operative.

Keynote article.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg  (centre) and friends play with virtual reality gear at a high-level gathering earlier this year.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (centre) and friends play with virtual reality gear at a high-level gathering earlier this year.

Photo: Kay Nietfield/Reuters

Smiley-faced monopolists

Does it matter that Google, Facebook and Amazon are so successful? Vanessa Baird examines what their domination means for all of us.

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Wonderful, bountiful.

The ever-youthful prince of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, told the world that he and his wife Priscilla Chan would be giving away 99 per cent of their shares to charitable causes during the course of their lifetimes.

A gesture so bold and generous: almost enough to rekindle the notion that tech billionaires were something different. A far cry from those grey and grubby bankers clutching their bonuses in so unseemly a fashion, or the brash property tycoons with exclusi...


FACTS – Internet giants

This month's fact spread presents details about the internet and the corporate giants who monopolize it.

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Whether it's done by secret police or computer algorithms, being stripped of privacy is fundamentally dehumanizing.

I spy with my little algorithm

Everybody wants your private data. Bruce Schneier on how surveillance has become the business model of the internet.

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Can search engine rankings swing elections?

Research psychologist Robert Epstein on how the new technologies invisibly shape public opinion – and what we must do about it.

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Students in Hyderabad protest against Facebook. The yellow sign reads: ‘Defend net neutrality’.

No, Mr Zuckerberg

Few can resist the tech titans. Prabir Purkayastha tells the story of Indians who went into battle against Facebook, for freedom – and won.

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An SMS alert tells recipients of aid – in countries like Kenya – to collect the cash donated from a local mobile money agent.

Helping in two clicks

Why bother with aid agencies? To ‘do good’ all you need is a phone and Google Maps. Amy Hall takes a closer look at the rising trend in ‘direct giving’.

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Beating the digital titans

You can take action at a practical and technological level – and a political one.

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Hilda Farfante was five years old when Franco’s henchmen killed her parents, whose pictures hang on the wall behind her.

Franco's ghosts

The dictator’s victims are still waiting to see their torturers on trial – and time is running out. By Mira Galanova.

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Anti-corruption protesters in Kuala Lumpur. Embezzlement and deceit are rife among Malaysia’s ruling elite.

The gathering storm

Nithin Coca reports on Malaysia’s slide towards authoritarianism.

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'I will never give up my land'

Roxana Olivera talks to Goldman Environment Prize winner Máxima Acuña.

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Web exclusives.

Community members working in the La Columna community garden, Merida, Venezuela.

In Venezuela's difficult times the grassroots are stronger

The time has come for rural communities to play an important role in the country, reports Tamara Pearson.

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US President George W. Bush (L) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair walk together from their meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, 22 February 2005.

Chilcot report: looking back on why we went to war with Iraq

If Tony Blair and George W. Bush had listened to Iraqis we would be living in a different world, Nikki van der Gaag writes.

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Turkish military stand guard near the Taksim Square as people wave with Turkish flags in Istanbul, Turkey, 16 July 2016.

Turkey in turmoil

Turkey’s president exploits the recent attempted coup against him to crack down on opponents. Chris Brazier reports.

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A protester holds a placard during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, 19 October 2015.

The Nauru Files: It’s time to close Australia’s abusive detention regime

When faced with overwhelming evidence of systemic abuse, the country's prime minister shifted responsibility, writes Mark Isaacs.

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Burkina Faso mural.

Night fever: remembering Burkina Faso and Tom Waits

Chris Brazier returns every decade to produce a New Internationalist magazine on the country. He has produced three magazines and is currently researching his fourth. In this blog, Chris recalls the night he flew into the midst of a revolution and discovered he had made a serious error.

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How the Dutch could derail CETA

As thousands discuss free trade at the World Social Forum in Montreal, Canada’s experience with NAFTA may offer lessons for the Netherlands, writes Niels Jongerius.

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Southern response to Ebola, Touching story, Fix the system, Unfair attack, Cresting the top, Return to Idealism & Depth of error.

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'The Republic of Possibilities'

Ruby Diamonde bids farewell to the Central African Republic.

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Country profile: The Bahamas

Kelsi Farrington on the truth behind the holiday-brochure image.

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Southern Exposure: Sudeep Lingamneni

Alice Melike Ülgezer’s Kurdish body art photographed by Sudeep Lingamneni.

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Open Window - Fashion

This month's guest cartoonist is Payam Boromand from Iran.

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Beware the slippery language of 'sustainable branding'

Beware the slippery language of 'sustainable branding'

Corporations that care? Don’t believe the spin, writes Dale Lately.

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Only Planet - Trump

Marc Roberts' cartoon offering this month.

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A word with Murad Subay

Yemeni street artist Murad Subay on using art to campaign and to commemorate.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews.

HotDocs Festival - Film review special

Richard Swift reviews some of the best offerings at the world's largest documentary film festival.

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Mixed Media: Books

The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera; Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich; Dark Money by Jane Mayer.

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Bitori – bringing the banned music back.

Mixed Media: Music

Hopelessness by Anohni; Legend of Funaná by Bitori.

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