War is brewing in Silicon Valley. A long-simmering fight between Apple and Facebook — two of the architects of Big Tech — spilled into the avenue this past week, with commercial and legal threats hitting the pages of both tech publications and broader media.
To read the Cult of Mac journalists who dominate Big Tech reporting, you’d think America had flipped the calendar back 10 years to a simpler time when Apple, Inc. was seen as some white knight fighting for innovation, user privacy, and a freer, hipper future. Facebook, on the other hand, you might read, stands for old-fashioned corporate greed.
It’s garbage, of course — the good guy part, anyways.
But why fight now? Over these past few weeks, Apple has experienced something it isn’t used to: Bad PR in the wake of essentially banning popular social media app Parler from its phones without publicly providing any truthful explanation. As its carefully crafted rebel chic began to look a more and more like polished corporate liberalism, what did Apple’s Tim Cook do? He attacked Facebook’s privacy-last profit model.
At first glance this might seem strange, but it isn’t. Indeed, fake battles and shiny objects are the core of Apple’s PR strategy.
Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook have been feuding over business practices and reputation for years. After reports emerged this week that Facebook is nearing a launch point for an antitrust lawsuit against Apple’s controlling and greedy App Store, Cook struck back, successfully shifting the conversation from Parler, the App Store, and antitrust to Facebook’s commoditization of its users.
It’s ground Apple likes to fight on. Why talk about how we’re profiting from religious genocide in China? Instead, let’s talk about how Apple sued mean old North Carolina for saying men can’t use women’s bathrooms and little girl’s locker rooms.
Why talk about the suffocating control the App Store exercises to ban politically or financially troublesome nuisances like the app Hong Kong democracy protesters were using to escape arrest? Instead, let’s talk about how Apple stood firm in refusal when the U.S. Department of Justice asked for help accessing the phones of domestic Islamic terrorists targeting American soldiers and office Christmas parties.
Why talk about how Apple moved first (and very likely colluded with other companies) to destroy Parler for daring to think they could build a tech company that might compete and didn’t suppress Americans’ free speech? The important thing to remember is that Facebook is bad.
Perfectly enough, the first public shot fired in Cook’s longstanding battle with Zuckerberg’s business model was during a long 2014 interview with Charlie Rose after iCloud was reportedly hacked for hundreds of private naked photos of Hollywood actresses. Let that sink in a moment: In an interview about a massive, humiliating, and illegal breach of Apple customer’s privacy, Cook turned the subject to Facebook’s privacy policies.
To be clear, Facebook is no friend of the consumer either. As Cook correctly pointed out in his Thursday speech attacking the social media site, their business is mining our data with a deeply disturbing level of granularity and invasiveness obscured behind hundreds of pages of legal “privacy agreements.”
Their world is built around constant and mindless addiction to a flashing advertising platform, powered by short and empty endorphin bursts. Facebook, like all of its peers at the pinnacle of the Valley, takes more from us, our children, and our society than it gives back.
Of course, a company that profits from the vast Chinese slave state doesn’t really care if Facebook mines you for cash, and just behind the thin rebel veneer and corporate libertarian buzzwords lies Cook’s true motivation for war with Facebook: control. Here’s more from Cook’s speech:
What are the consequences of prioritizing conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of the high rates of engagement?
What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?
What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users joining extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more?
It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost. A polarization of lost trust, and yes, of violence.
See, in addition to having a different but similarly unethical business model, Zuckerberg is the sole tech titan to push back on the woke left’s plan to control and censor speech and people deemed threatening to the woke left.
This doesn’t mean he’s come up with better solutions, though. Faceless foreign organizations performing external fact-checks on conservative American media, for example, are an outgrowth of Zuckerberg’s resistance to becoming the arbiter of which speech is true and which speech is not allowed — a role Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and their woke allies have enthusiastically embraced.
Influential tech journalist Kara Swisher perfectly laid out the left’s scorn for Zuckerberg not devoting himself fully enough to their new religion in a Jan. 16 edition of Politico’s Playbook, writing:
Most of all, they have tried to duck responsibility. I have always been amazed by Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that he did not want to be an ‘arbiter of the truth.’ My question for him: Why then did he build a platform that requires it?
Got that? How could they not arbitrate truth? Facebook groups, these people claim, are why Americans rejected obvious moral choice Hillary Clinton and elected bad orange man Donald Trump. If Facebook were responsible little liberals, they would rush to become “arbiters of truth” just like their properly pious peers.
Shiny garbage fights like these are crucial to Apple. They allow the first publicly traded American corporation to earn $2 trillion in a single year to play the hip, innovative rebel in a black turtleneck. They allow a company that stubbornly refuses to shift manufacturing from a communist slave state to American states to play defender of the oppressed. They allow a sprawling monopoly committed to controlling your speech to play champion of your privacy.
If there’s a path to roll back and reconfigure Big Tech’s data-mining business models, we should absolutely take it. Just don’t let yourself be distracted — Tim Cook is not your friend.