Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Information Trade

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Information Trade

How Big Tech Conquers Countries, Challenges Our Rights, and Disrupts Our World


15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Big tech companies – net states – loom over governments and users. 

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


Big-tech companies – net states – dominate people’s lives in a way activist Stewart Brand couldn’t have imagined when he said, “Information wants to be free.” Now, data are neither free nor protected. Consumers feel overwhelmed and powerless in the web world. Alexis Wichowski, Columbia professor and New York City municipal tech official, asks if net states and nation-states can coexist. She explores whether users – you and your company – can sort out the benefits and dangers of life online and control their content. In this stellar explanation of today’s threats, Wichowski issues a persuasive call for a tech user’s bill of rights.


Digital, international net states – big tech companies – are businesses, but act more like nations.

Companies that people might more accurately call net states – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Tesla – are at the heart of the tech industry. They seek to influence how the world works for individuals and societies. In the age of the citizen-user, these companies regard themselves as diplomatic participants on the world stage. They try to create infrastructure wherever possible, including citizen services and even defense. Local law is no obstacle. Their pursuit of geopolitical power is primary.

Silk Roadand Project Maven exemplify the spinoff nature of net state technologies. Silk Road, an illicit marketplace, was online from 2011 until the FBI closed it in 2013. It was a dark web agora, in which you could buy illegal drugs, hacking expertise or sex slaves.

The Maven project was a 2017 collaboration between Google and the US Department of Defense to design an artificial intelligence (AI) program that would enhance drone capabilities...

About the Author

Alexis Wichowski is the deputy chief technology officer for the City of New York and an adjunct professor of technology and media at Columbia University.

Comment on this summary