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Unchecked powers of tech companies worrisome — UN chief

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday expressed worry over the unchecked power of big tech companies, including social media platforms.

Speaking at a news conference in New York, Guterres said the world could not afford too much powers in the hands of a small number of companies.

He said the issue required a “serious discussion”, adding that one of the objectives of the UN’s roadmap on digital cooperation was to put the matter on the table.

The UN chief was responding to a question on the permanent suspension of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts by Facebook and Twitter over alleged rule violations.

Guterres was specifically asked whether he thought the companies’ actions amounted to censorship or violations of Trump’s right to freedom of expression.

He said: “I think the right question is, should there be a company or entity that has the powers on these issues?

“Or should we create a mechanism for a regulatory framework with rules that allow that to be done in line with law?

“My clear answer is the second. I do not think that we can live in a world where too much power is given to a reduced number of companies.

“I must say that I am particularly worried over the power that they already have, the volume of information that is being gathered about each one of us, and the lack of control we have about data related to us.

“The fact that that (such) data can be used not only for commercial purposes, but also to change our behaviour, and the risk of that to be used also, from a political point of view, for the control of citizens in countries, is worrisome.

“All these is something that I believe requires a serious discussion,” he said.

It was reported that the increasing power of big techs in public discourse has been a subject of debate among politicians and policy makers in the U.S.

There have been growing complaints that Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have too much power to shape public debates and censor speech in an increasingly digital world.

Harrison Arubu

NEWSVERGE, published by The Verge Communications is an online community of international news portal and social advocates dedicated to bringing you commentaries, features, news reports from a Nigerian-African perspective.A unique organization, founded in the spirit of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, comprising of ordinary people with an overriding commitment to seeking the truth and publishing it without fear or favour.The Verge Communications is fully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a corporate organization.

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