[Marxism] Mark Zuckerberg’s dilemma - what to do with monster he has created? | openDemocracy

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 31 07:14:41 MDT 2018

The five most valuable corporations in the Western world at present — 
Apple, Alphabet (owner of Google), Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook — are 
all digital enterprises. Three of them — Apple, Amazon and Microsoft — 
have relatively conventional business models: they produce goods and/or 
services for which customers pay. The other two — Google and Facebook — 
provide services that are free in return for the right to extract and 
monetise the personal information and data-trails of their users. The 
data thus extracted, refined and aggregated are then deployed to enable 
advertisers — the actual customers of the companies — to target 
advertisements at users. This is often summarised in the adage ‘if the 
service is free, then you are the product’.

Google and Facebook operate what economists call two-sided markets: in 
their cases revenue from customers on one side (advertisers) subsidise 
users on the other side. In recent years, the term surveillance 
capitalism (3) has been coined to describe this business model. Although 
Google and Facebook portray themselves as tech companies, it’s sometimes 
more illuminating to regard them as extractive enterprises like oil or 
mining companies. The latter extract natural resources from the earth, 
which they then refine, process and sell to customers. Facebook and 
Google do something analogous, but the resources they extract, refine 
and monetise are purely digital — the data-trails generated by their 
users’ activities on their platforms.


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