Big Tech, Google included, need to be held accountable

OCTOBER 27 — Facebook is under a lot of scrutiny for questionable practices and what seems to be an unwillingness to consider the harm its practices have caused.

I would like to see Google come under the spotlight as well, judging by the ridiculous amount of ads that shouldn't be on their advertising platform.

The problem isn't recent — for years, dodgy ads have been allowed to run on websites as well as YouTube.

However it's more of a problem on YouTube. When I try to watch videos on YouTube, the first thing that greets me is some dodgy Malaysian “financial advice” advertisement.

What's hilarious is when I'd been watching Mandopop videos, I was suddenly being served those dodgy ads in Mandarin. 

The advertisements are always the same; some random person claiming financial freedom was just a click away, that I was losing out by not getting into investing right now.

I stay away from stocks because I do not have the head for it. There are things I would rather do than scour the internet for stock tips or invest money I am not sure I could lose in the hope I could make a profit.

It is also why I will not go near cryptocurrency. If you got on the bitcoin or ethereum wagon when it just started rolling, all power to you. Right now the market is too volatile, pivoting as easily as Elon Musk tweets without thinking.

Investing is not as easy as financial gurus will make it out to be and those YouTube ads are more about selling either some multi-level marketing scheme or series of courses that are just repackaged and recycled tips you could probably find with a few Google searches.

Selling an overpriced course and promising profits that even a high risk fund manager would hesitate to claim is just one thing  — a scam.

I know that Google prides itself on how easy it is to advertise on its platform with no human intervention necessary. Yet its refusal to vet advertisements as well as apps on its Play Store leaves too much room for bad actors and is morally reprehensible. 

This file photo taken on October 21, 2020 shows the logos of Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. — AFP pic
This file photo taken on October 21, 2020 shows the logos of Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. — AFP pic

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No matter how Big Tech companies argue that their services are mere tools and what people do with those tools is not their responsibility, when it comes to services that involve the mass dissemination of content, even advertisements must be held to certain standards.

Big Tech should not think they can wash their hands clean of the evil propagated on their platforms — as can be evidenced by the current proliferation of antivax information online as well as how hate campaigns were waged against various vulnerable groups.

I found a page selling ivermectin on Facebook and despite reporting it to the site, Facebook did nothing while my report to the Health Ministry's enforcement department saw a reply within a day. 

Because of Facebook, I saw Malaysians arguing that the Rohingya got what was coming to them all due to dodgy posts that painted them as warmongering terrorists.

I know right now some person in desperate financial straits might be clicking on a dodgy YouTube ad in hopes it just might be their salvation and not their ruin. 

If Google won't regulate itself it might be time that countries, including Malaysia do — there is no excuse for any company to profit off Malaysian customers while also abetting their victimisation. 

The world, especially its vulnerable, deserves better than to be exploited by the tools that were supposed to make it better.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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