NetGain: Platform Accountability

What do Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Youtube have in common?

You are what they mine


Your attention is your currency. It is your most precious resource. It defines your experience of life.

We are talking about the most powerful corporate entities in human history. And they are not accountable to anybody. Their power is too new, too different, to fit our current regulatory frameworks.

They know everything about you. But they are not being governed. We are not in charge. They are.

We need an unprecedented innovation to challenge any of these platforms.

Either that, or we figure out how to govern them.

Democracy flails at the mercy of fake news. The taxi industry is erased and the precariat are left to compete for the bread crumbs. Local economies disappear behind Amazon’s tyranny of convenience (prime member here). And we miss our own experience just so that we can share the picture.

Do you remember when Silicon Valley promised us utopia? This is not it.

Last month I facilitated the NetGain Partnership’s Maine Convening. The Ford, MacArthur, Knight, Mozilla and Open Society Foundations bring together brilliant minds to grapple with the question of platform accountability. This is unsung work. It’s not glamorous. It is overwhelming. And it has massive implications.

We don't have answers.

We have climate change. An obsolete governance structure. And a whole new economy held in the grip of these platforms. So what can we do?

Gather in person. Ask big questions. Resource this work. And experiment.

This is the important work of the NetGain Partnership. But as big as these foundations are, we are still talking David vs. Goliath.

But these technologies depend on us, on our participation, on our attention. We do have choice. And we can craft alternatives. It will take time. This is the work of a generation.

Immediately, you can:

Over time, you can:

  • Pay attention. Make political demands. This should definitely be a bipartisan issue.

  • Learn about things like Amazon and the potential of antitrust intervention.

  • Make demands of the platforms themselves. You are their customer and their product.

We must find ways to meet this moment.

Where is your attention?