Most of the debates I have seen around “cancelling” Trump have been about Left using its clout to silence the Right. I had tweeted earlier, more than cancelling Trump, it is removing another upcoming chat App Parler from Google platform and withholding it by Apple should ring the alarm bells.

Recall, earlier, Paytm too was removed from Google play store. That showed how any business can be brought down easily in these days of e-commerce. I would, for the purpose of this discussion, keep the Left-Right debate aside and focus on huge control a few giant corporations that control the communications of the world.

We have been talking of alternative Apps looking at the way Twitter has been turning a blind eye to Left and Islamist hate messages and that present fake news but banning, shadow banning known handles presenting facts to counter them. But, we have realized only with removal of Parler that having alternative platforms may not resolve these issues, because gateways to these are controlled by two giants- primarily Google and to some extent, Apple.

The cloud services that host all the services are controlled by another monopoly – Amazon. Thus, your reach to the world, whether political or intellectual or business is controlled by three giants – Google, Amazon and Apple. They can control your market access in every sense.

Did Paytm have a choice to bypass Google? Do I have a choice? Suppose Google doesn’t like my view, they can blacklist my IP address, they can ban a portal that hosts my article. Suppose, a strong alternative to Twitter or Facebook emerges, Google, Amazon or Apple can kill it by simply de-platforming it.

Just imagine the scenario.

We are all living in a bubble of make believe free world created by Google, now that it controls all the gateways and Amazon controlling Cloud services that were heralded as ultimate poor man’s pathway to the world. We decry China for many right reasons, but in its interest, it banished Google. They created their own operating systems, their on e-commerce tech, Social media apps. Now, same Google is allegedly working for them to improve their operating systems! Apple bent over backwards to do business with China.

What has been India’s approach to these giants transgressing their limits? Summon
Twitter for parliamentary committee meeting, but Twitter doesn’t show up. Facebook is summoned, this too ends in a whimper. WhatsApp is putting conditions that are detrimental to business but it is about to get payment gateway status.

Has government told it, where it gets off?

Many of may not be aware that Elon Musk has not used any services or components of Google or Apple in its electrical car, its complex operating system or its navigation system though it would have been much cheaper for him. Simple reason was that he realised the risk of being held to ransom by these tech giants within a split second at the whims or fancy of an engineer even before Pichai could say WhatsApp?

In our keenness to digitize India and increase internet reach to remotest corners of India, PM Modi ji encouraged all these giants to increase their presence, gave impetus to electronic businesses using these very platforms and operating systems. Communications via WhatsApp, Twitter have been encouraged within the government. Yes, PM has got his own Apps, which is a great idea, but ultimately they ride on Google (and its subsidiary Android). What if they deplatform them?

These giants have been provided opportunities worth billions without any preconditions or legal controls as per indications and their behavior. This is where danger lies.

I have, time and again, argued that we have a huge talent pool to create alternatives to all these operating systems, cloud storage systems and Apps etc. Forget government, there are giant IT companies who have hired out best brains to the world with labour arbitrage (decent name for selling intellectual labour at wage differential). They are sitting on piles of dollars, they just needed a nudge from the government to develop required tools. There are talented start ups who can deliver, forget the tired giants, with a little financial backing. Is it a high price to pay for much touted information and data sovereignty.

A young BJP functionary working with top central ministry has written a book on data sovereignty, but has the idea reached the government? Sirs, you are the ruling party, whom are you addressing? When knowledgeable BJP MPs chide Twitter or Google, they
forget that one finger points at them too. There a re tech savvy leaders how know for long what I have noted here, but they may not have not pushed this agenda of ‘Aatmnirbharata’ strongly enough is all I can say.

I am using some strong words as it is an issue that requires urgent attention. It is so urgent that it needs to be taken up by PM Narendra Modi ji himself now. The risk of tech giants dictating terms to democratic governments and controlling their policies, including foreign trade, is so stark that it can be brushed aside only at our own peril. Ideological one-upmanship is just a curtain behind which the real Animal Farm is being created.

Let us not waste our energies at outraging against Twitter and FB etc. Don’t worry about Trump or American society. They will create new giants. Afterall, these giants are the product of that country’s culture – freedom to think, to work and to create. India has to look after its own destiny. Being Indian in name, does not make tech giant top executives Indians or well wishers of India. Aatman nirbhar Bharat is truly possible if we control our businesses, our culture our pluralism.

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