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Sometimes Things Can Get Just Too Big

Sometimes Things Can Get Just Too Big

We as a nation are still living with the outcome of the ‘banks are too big to fail’ philosophy and are likely to be for decades to come. The twist on it that ‘banks are too big to care’ has not yet caught on in popular conscience, but perhaps it will.

What about online enterprises in our great digital age? Are they just like call ‘services’ where they say ‘your call is important to us’? Plainly it isn’t important to them, or they’d have more staff answering calls.

It may that they are impersonal and automatic. It may be that sometimes people’s complaints can be seen as just irritants from malcontents who fail to catch the fire or vision of the business ‘mission’.

But there is more and more evidence that sometimes the internet, and web-based businesses, get so big that they become laws unto themselves. They become so powerful that what people think or suffer is of no consequence at all.

Google are so arrogant in that regard, its alleged, that it’s impossible to speak to anybody in person to complain or ask a question. They say they have thought of everything through their FAQs. So there.

Microsoft in the Dock of Opinion

Not part of the usual suspects of Amazon, Google and Facebook, Microsoft have just offended many Brits, particularly those who care about precious resources.

The Microsoft research centre in Cambridge is a seven-storey glass-fronted building of which the company is immensely proud. It is certified as ‘excellent’ by the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

But locals who live nearby have complained that the technological giant is blighting their sleep, devaluing their homes by lighting up the building all night ‘like Disney World.’

Microsoft say lights operate manually and through motion sensors and comply with planning conditions to reduce ‘impact on local and global environments.’ They claim ‘impeccable’ environmental credentials.

Residents dismiss this, saying they never turn lights off, that nobody is visible in the building all night and they should learn to be good neighbours. One posted on Twitter, ‘For a company full of PHDs, you’d think they’d have worked out light switches.’

With no promise to at least investigate, the dispute goes on. Goliath is right because it says it is.

Bank of America As a Lesson

Washington Times – ‘social journalism from independent voices – published in February 2013  a story by Priscilla Jones about Bank of America as ‘too big to care’. The punchline was that they ‘serve lawsuits, not customers.’

Jones said of Bank of America that its sins have been widely reported. They craft laws to ‘the chagrin of customers and taxpayers that are protected in court by well-funded lawyers and enforced by politicians they help keep in office.’

She referenced US Justice Depart ‘sluggish wrist-slaps over loan hustles, defrauding customers through loan modifications scams and government largesse of $100 billion ‘without precedent’.

The latest ‘song and dance’ is to pay out ‘billions of dollars for offenses it says it didn’t commit to compensate for bank fraud it claims never happened.’ American taxpayers fork out because the bank, yes, ‘is too big to fail’.

It’s not a uniquely American problem or scenario. Tottering on bankruptcy, the result of incompetence, wrong decisions, national fraud wrapped up in legal niceties, whole countries are now, we’re told, ‘too big to fail’. Just ask EU taxpayers.

But then, ask the taxpayers for their views is the last thing that happens, even in a democracy where taxpayers are voters.

Mumsnet Stops Being All Mumsy

When the social website for women began, it was a British website for parents, which hosted a range of discussion forums. Parents-to-parents, peers-to-peers gave advice, warnings and provided a voice to mothers who often were house-bound raising children for long hours a day.

It has grown and grown. It has a record of tripping up politicians. David Cameron has fallen foul of mothers’ views. Some of the comments are funny, some outraged, but it has been a voice for women and to be applauded for that.

Of course there have been keenly fought differences of opinion. Co-founder Justine Roberts said, ‘people can be critical, but for every opinion there is usually a counter one’.

Sounds fair and balanced. However, nowadays most people no longer subscribe to ‘I don’t like your opinion but I will defend to the death your right to say it in free country.’ Some views you are not allowed to articulate. Some you shouldn’t have at all.

Amanda Holden, would-be National Treasure, was slammed online by many Mumsnet users for going back to work just three weeks after giving birth. She hit back, as people would expect from the fiery Britain’s Got Talent judge by slamming Mumsnet users for ‘their negativity’.

She divided opinion, with many defending her, others criticising ‘spitefully.’ Meaiouw! But this is more than a claws out, women-to-women spat.

One time Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins said that some people will do anything to put down women with an interest beyond babies and breastfeeding’. She argued that Mumsnet has ‘grown up to become a monster.’

And that’s the point. It is now a major website, with power and authority and an interest not so much in controversy, but in attracting users to follow the arguments online.

Check out Mumsnet rules where you are free to ‘talk on any subject you like.’

I’m not against it in any way. I like people to hold different opinions as I do believe in genuine diversity without an ‘approved line.’ Approved by whom? The majority? Mmmm.

What do YOU think?

Related debating topics:

Facebook Enriches the English Language, If Not Our Wallets, 6 March 2013

Net Giants Will Always Overwhelm, Control and Suck People Dry, 26 February 2013

The Role of the iParent in the Age of the iChild, 25 February 2013

Time to Cage the Twittering, Tweeting Bird of Internet Freedom, 22 January 2013

The Internet Is Simultaneously Both Good Cop and Bad Guy, 8 January 2013

Amazon Is Not Yet Quite the Biggest Beast in Retail Jungle, 10 December 2012

The Internet Has Created a New Frontier in Lite-Tax Paying, 29 October 2012

The Rise of iDemocracy, the Fall of Big Brother Thanks to Digital Technology, 17 October 2012

Image:Eva Rinaldi