You pays your money and takes your choice (of filter bubble)

This morning’s Observer column:

The only problem is that outside the Washington Beltway – DC’s version of the M25 – few people seem terribly excited about the supposed evils of Facebook, Google and co. (That’s not entirely true: lots of intellectuals and commentators not in the United States, including this columnist, are concerned about these companies, so for current purposes we can think of the “Beltway” as a metaphorical filter bubble.) But outside that bubble, life goes on. People log on to Facebook every day and use Google to find recipes or train timetables, regardless of whether these platforms might be playing a role in undermining democracy.

One can see why people don’t care. Antitrust lawyers and European commissioners may be concerned about the monopoly powers of internet companies, but it’s very difficult to persuade the average internet user that s/he is being gouged by outfits whose services are free. Given that, the prospect of a popular uprising against Google and Facebook seems pretty remote…

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