As the Internet being thrive, it sophisticatedly offers individuals new possibilities to express themselves in ways that reflect their cultural identities and personal values. This user-generated content, therefore, allows users’ voices to be better reflected and promoted worldwide. However, as it stands at the moment, there is still considerable criticism that the lack of diversity on the internet has led to social and personal damage. This essay intends to analyze the lack of diversity in market monopolization, the hostile online environment and gender and racial stereotypes.
Large tech companies monopolized the market:
One reflection of the lack of diversity on the internet is the monopolization of the market by large technology companies. It leads to a lack of economic diversity in the marketplace. A small handful of companies now dominate people’s experiences on the internet. According to statistics, Big Tech has maintained a dominant share of 80% in the market (MSG, n.d.), and the big four sites in the United States alone are visited more than one billion times a day (Eavis & Lohr, 2020). As people become increasingly dependent on the digital products offered by large tech companies, the companies receive a greater share of spending in the economy and earn ever more significant profits. The increasing scale empowers large tech companies with enormous influence and finance. However, it also burdens internet governance. Large technology companies, often in an attempt to secure their market share, acquire and stifle startups that could be potential competitors through vicious competition. They charge high fees, force smaller customers into unfavourable contracts, and use “killer acquisitions” to hinder competitors (BBC, 2020). This seriously undermines market diversity and smothers innovation.
Today, the shift in the regulatory context globally compels tech giants to take responsibility for their competition behaviours. Large tech companies have faced increased scrutiny over their size and power. However, this has been met with resistance from the web giants. Apple CEO Tim Cook condemned the antitrust regulation as a piece of “unnecessary regulation”, saying it would hurt users (CNBC, 2022). Big Tech unwanted government to intrude into their business operations. Instead, they desire to hold on to their power and market share. Hence, some large tech companies spend vast amounts of lobbying to pressure public officials to support laws and policies that benefit lobbyists’ clients (Pawel, 2018). Because both large tech companies and governments have much social influence, it creates a huge opportunity cost to society as both parties spend huge amounts of money, time, and labour competing for the market (These resources are fixed and open in the social). This leads to “rent dissipation“. It causes a significant portion of social resources to dissipation in the competition rather than in contributing to other more critical areas.
Hostile netizens impact users’ freedom of speech:
At its inception, the internet was fundamentally seen as a network that empowered the edges rather than the centre, with principles of openness, fairness, and non-interference (Tarleton, 2017). However, it has limited governments regulating and intervening in harmful behaviour and content on the internet. According to Molly Crockett (2017), digital media platforms are more likely to share inflammatory content with the intention of generating advertising revenue from high user views. This indulges ‘internet trolls‘ to spread emotionally offensive comments online, contributing to viral online shaming. And this tendentious promoting algorithm restrains the diversity of delivered content on the internet. As Crockett (2017) proposes, netizens are creating an online ecosystem that prefers the most outrageous content and a platform where it is easier to express and deliver that outrage. A case in point is that “Friday” singer Rebecca Black faced a barrage of vitriol and bullying from almost internet-wide listeners after the song was uploaded on YouTube. And all of these negative comments and ruthless jokes came when Rebecca only was 13 years old girl.
In this case, Rebecca, who appears to have freedom of expression as a social media user, has instead lost his voice to almost entire internet cyber violence. It unfolds the denial of individual freedom of speech by cyberbullying. However, Rebecca is just one of the thousands of users who have experienced online shaming. In relation to Rebecca’s case, Rebecca had no intention of becoming popular, she just wanted to take advantage of her vacation to do something music related and gain some experience, but she was subjected to unprecedented flak. It means it is not just celebrities who encounter cyber-violence concerns. Ordinary people also run the risk of being viciously criticized for what they say online. As a result, people tend to adopt more cautious online expressions, even expanding the spiral of silence on social media due to reduced confidence in personal online expression.
Gender and racial stereotypes:
Although the internet represents exemplary societal progress, women and ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented in the media. They continued to be restricted to devalued character positions and devalued media genres. This illustrates internet the lack of content diversity in media representation. Dixon (2017) states that news portrayals tend to distort social reality, especially regarding Blacks. The inter-role comparisons showed that Blacks and Latinos were more likely to appear as suspects when compared to officers but that the opposite was true of Whites (Dixon, 2017). When there is a lack of contact between racial groups, people tend to rely on media representation to formulate ideas about people outside of their race. Consumption of these distorted images can reinforce stereotypical notions of various racial groups, exacerbating prejudice and conflict between races. This is not conducive to social stability.
On social media, prejudice related to gender and racism is overtly expressed. The algorithm of virality exacerbates this expression of moral outrage by inflating its triggering stimuli, reducing some of its costs, and amplifying many of its personal benefits. The media’s tendency to fuel racial misperceptions can contribute to public support for harsher punishments for people of colour. For instance, gender and racial bias drive out outstanding female and minority employees in the internet industry. In relation to Kieran Snyder’s interview, there are 27% of women had worked in the tech industry for seven years but chose to leave due to uncomfortable over-discrimination in the workforce (Snyder, 2014). Similarly, racial discrimination also makes it difficult for coloured employees to work on internet projects. A study of women of colour shows that more than half of the participants reported receiving backlash when they expressed anger or assertiveness at work (Marcus, 2015). This restrains employees from presenting a diverse viewpoint and impacting the development of the internet. And the internet industry needs a more inclusive and diverse corporate culture in the future.
Big tech monopoly power reduces economic diversity, and they continuously compete for the market with the government, finally resulting in social resource diffusion. The promoting algorithm prefers inflammatory content, declining the diversity of delivered media content. This further hurt people’s freedom of speech on the internet. Finally, disseminating underrepresented and distorted female and racial images in media exacerbates the prejudice and conflict between two parties in society. And this also impedes internet development from receiving more varied thoughts.
BBC News. (2020). US tech giants accused of ‘monopoly power’. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-54443188
CNBC. (2022). Apple CEO Tim Cook criticizes antitrust regulation, says some policies would hurt iPhone users. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/12/apple-ceo-tim-cook-says-some-new-policies- would-hurt-iphone-security.html
Crockett, M. J. (2017). Moral outrage in the digital age. Nature Human Behaviour, 1(11), 769–771. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-017-0213-3
Dixon, T. L. (2017). Understanding How the Internet and Social Media Accelerate Racial Stereotyping and Social Division: The Socially Mediated Stereotyping Model (1st eds). In Race and Gender in Electronic Media (pp. 179–196). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315636801-19
Eavis, P., & Lohr, S. (2020). Big Tech’s Domination of Business Reaches New Heights. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/technology/big-tech-business-domination.h tml
Management Study Guide. (n.d.). Why The Big Tech Monopoly Needs To Be Broken? https://www.managementstudyguide.com/the-big-tech-monopoly-needs-to-be-bro ken.htm
Marcus, B. (2015). The Lack Of Diversity In Tech Is A Cultural Issue. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2015/08/12/the-lack-of-diversity-in-t ech-is-a-cultural-issue/?sh=11f4831579a2
Pawel, P. (2018). ‘The Tech Lobby: Tracing the Contours of New Media Elite Lobbying Power’. Communication, Culture & Critique 11(4), pp. 566-585.
Snyder, K. (2014). Why women leave tech: It’s the culture, not because ‘math is hard’. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2014/10/02/women-leave-tech-culture/
Tarleton, G. (2017) ‘Governance by and through Platforms’, in J. Burgess, A. Marwick & T. Poell (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Social Media, London: SAGE, pp. 254-278.