I spent a good part of today (virtually) attending the Competition Tribunal hearing in South Africa regarding Facebook Inc. vs GovChat. At the same time, I have been following the lead up to Uganda's presidential elections set to start on 14 January 2021. Simultaneously, in the background, Big Tech companies continue to ban Donald Trump (the latest one is YouTube) and his associates from their platforms.

This news, and others that have been trending even on Main Stream Media, had me a bit concerned especially when Big Tech and social media are regularly being mentioned alongside politics and elections.

πŸ“· Arguably not only among the richest people on Earth at the moment but also the most influential as far as their companies and society is concerned. L-R: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), and Sundar Pichai (CEO of Alphabet, owners of Google).

My concern mainly stems from the fact that for some years now, and as highlighted at the beginning of 2021, these companies are now becoming extremely important in determining what narratives become popular on their platforms and who gets elected. We've had numerous reports and research over the years showing that Big Tech and social media platforms played an important role in getting Donald Trump elected (through, among others, fake news that went viral). Β Despite this evidence over the years, Big Tech companies did nothing.

There's also evidence, following Donald Trump becoming president, that shows that Big Tech companies were instrumental in making racist and violent content in America go viral resulting in the radicalization of many Americans. Again, they did nothing. Instead, they continued to court the powers that be, especially Facebook, to offer them some of their solutions and services.

This is not only the case in America, it's happening even across Africa.

The latest incident of Facebook's "censorship" is when it censored content by #EndSARS protesters in Nigeria last year.

This brings me to Uganda's presidential elections.

As we speak, social media is blocked in Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni ordered telecommunications companies to restrict access to social media platforms. It's important to note at this stage that Museveni has been shutting down the internet and restricting social media in Uganda for over a decade especially around elections.

All along these years, Facebook and other Big Tech companies didn't even bat an eyelid.

This year, however, Facebook decided to ban accounts related to Uganda's sitting government citing that they were fake and duplicate accounts looking that were posting election-related content multiple times. Museveni didn't waste time and cited this as the reason for restricting social media platforms in Uganda because "Facebook is taking sides in Uganda's upcoming elections."

These developments are disturbing in that they seem to indicate that Big Tech, can, if it so wishes, control narratives that can eventually influence who gets elected.

Are they our new puppet masters?

Here are today's other top stories.

πŸ“° Here is a list of the top 10 stories put together by our editorial team from 2020. We highly recommend that you read these as part of your review of the year that was. These stories could not have happened without the hard and important work of our writers, contributors, researchers, columnists, and news reporters in different countries across the continent. Link

🧐 Despite us, as individuals not liking any other person to stalk us, we somehow are comfortable with digital platforms collecting all sorts of data on us and constantly monitoring us in the background. Link

🎧 De-platforming in 2021 continues. So it turns out that Spotify removed music tracks of thousands of artists claiming they were not music. Now these artists are protesting for the reinstatement of their tracks. Link

πŸ›οΈ One of the key insights and trends that shaped 2020 TradeDepot say they have observed from their data is the growth of smaller packaging for consumer goods (FMCG) and increased spending on food and essential goods. This, according to the company, is due to dwindling disposable income and people spending more time at home - will continue to influence behavior across the market. Link

Quote of the day

Big Tech, can, if it so wishes, control narratives that can eventually influence who gets elected. Are they our new puppet masters? (Tweet this)

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