Herr Bischoff

On People Irreversibly Losing Their Accounts With Big Tech Companies

For some time now, I see reports from single individuals popping up all around my corner of the internet, about getting locked out of their accounts — or getting them suspended entirely. Unsurprisingly, this affects users of large services in particular.

Often those are the same users who sport lots of tech positivity, libertarians, opposed to most or even any kind of regulation. Once they are personally affected (or someone close to them, like family) by the capriciousness of the companies they entrusted their livelihoods with, they start to wonder why it is that they have no recourse against them. It fascinates me to no end.

On the one hand lots of people more or less voluntarily use private companies’ free services and are taken by surprise when shut out for arbitrary reasons. It doesn’t even matter what those reasons are. On the other, regulation is decried as government overreach, stifling innovation.

Then there are the inevitable technologist voices calling for yet another technical solution to an issue created by technology and economic liberalism in the first place. The technocracy appears to be unable to see beyond its own horizon, despite all proclamations to the superior intellect of its constituents. You cannot comprehensively solve social and legal issues with technology alone. More often than not, you’re creating more issues than you solve.

The confusion and surprise reminds me of a monologue from a 2018 episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on Facebook, which I took the liberty of transcribing:

“Facebook isn’t evil. Facebook is more like a robot that eats human skin. I mean, maybe that robot does amazing things like cure cancer or make thin mints and that is great. But it’s fueling those amazing things with human skin — and you can’t be surprised when a human skin eating robot starts skinning people. That’s what you built it to do. The only way to stop it from building skin traps is to either shut it down or fundamentally change the way it works. Also, no one cares that you built the skin bot in your fucking dorm room. So hey, you oatmeal-colored tadpole man, you better knock it off with the ‘Who, me? I’m just a cute little millenial’ shtick. You are one of the most powerful men in the world. You built this monster and it made you rich, it is your job to kill it. Get this shit under control before you ‘oopsie’ another genocide.”

You can’t be surprised when the machine does what you built it to do.