Google, Facebook, and Amazon: A Second Gilded Age of New Monopolies

How dominant are Google, Facebook, and Amazon you ask? According to a briefing in my favorite magazine The Week, they are as dominant as Standard Oil, Carnegie Steel, and American Tobacco were at the end of the 19th century.
  • Google dominates search, video, and online ads and has an 885 market share in search advertising in the U.S.
  • Facebook and its major subsidiaries—Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger—account for 77% of mobile social media traffic.
  • Almost $1 of every $2 in online retail sales goes through Amazon.

Flush with revenues of tens of billions of dollars, each company has heavily expanded into other industries:
  • Google dominates video (through YouTube), mapping, and personal email;
  • Facebook is building consumer drones and virtual reality sets;
  • Amazon recently bought the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.4 billion.
Digital enthusiasts once predicted that the internet would democratize business and industry; instead, it’s enabled a handful of firms to have such dominant market shares that it’s almost impossible to compete with them. T.J. Stiles, a biographer of the 19th-century business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, says we are living in a second Gilded Age. “Our lives,” he says, “are channeled once again through fewer and fewer companies controlled by a few men.”

So, what’s wrong with monopolies you may ask? When companies control a market, they tend to use their power to eliminate competition—often to the detriment of consumers. They can force suppliers to lower their prices, cutting their profits, and can bankrupt their rivals by undercutting them—or simply buy them out. Massive companies can also use economies of scale to eliminate jobs—particularly in the digital era, when much work can be automated. All this can result in reduced consumer choice, depressed wages, and a concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer people in fewer locations.

And is that actually occurring? Yes...
  • Amazon accounts for 52% of all U.S. book sales, 43 percent of all online commerce, and 45 percent of the fast-growing cloud-computing market. The Seattle-based company has put most brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business, and last year had online sales six times higher than those of Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Home Depot, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Costco combined! The self-proclaimed “Everything Store” has absorbed many of its competitors, buying the largest online shoe retailer (Zappos), the most popular live-streaming video platform (Twitch), and the market leader in baby products ( When the latter initially refused to sell, Amazon simply slashed its prices for its own baby products until capitulated.
  • Facebook boasts 2 billion active users—more than a quarter of the human race. When CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw a social media threat from Instagram and WhatsApp, he spent $20 billion to buy them. A third social media competitor, Snapchat, rejected an offer of $3 billion, so Facebook launched a feature on Instagram essentially replicating Snapchat’s self-deleting videos and photos. Within a year, Instagram Stories has already attracted more daily users than its rival.
  • Google’s parent company, Alphabet, acquires an average of one company a week. More than 1 billion people worldwide use Gmail. For Google, Amazon, and Facebook’s stockholders and executives, this staggering level of success has created enormous wealth, and the companies’ customers benefit from the unprecedented convenience their various services provide.
The domination of these tech giants also has produced plenty of losers, such as:
  • The newspaper industry is one example. Facebook and Google control more than 70% of the $73 billion digital advertising market in the U.S. Many of those dollars used to go to media companies: Between 2006 and 2016, U.S. newspaper advertising revenue plummeted from $50 billion to $18 billion, and the number of jobs in the industry has been cut by more than half, from 411,000 in 2001 to 174,000 in 2016. Journalism websites, too, are struggling to survive, because Facebook and Google eat up most of the online ad dollars.
  • Department stores and malls are another example. Hundreds of major retail stores have shut their doors because of the shift to online shopping, and dozens of malls have gone dark or are half empty. That, in turn, has damaged the vitality of downtowns and surrounding communities. “The communities wither away, and they never come back,” said Howard Davidowitz, an investment banker and consultant to the retail industry.
Is there any pushback? What do you think... in the U.S., not much. The U.S. government generally has used a light hand in regulating tech companies, so as not to stifle innovation and growth in what is now our fastest-growing industry.

Facebook, Google, and Amazon argue that they’re not true monopolies, because their much smaller competitors are only a click away—something that wasn’t the case with, say, AT&T before it was broken up. And the Big Tech beasts spend vast sums keeping lawmakers on their side: Facebook alone poured $3.2 million into federal lobbying in one quarter alone. But this is neither true nor fair to the American public.

Ultimately, consumers will have to rebel en masse against these companies before U.S. lawmakers or regulators will take any action—and there’s no sign that will happen, so one of my New Year's resolutions will be to figure out a way to contact elected officials and educate you as to how the Internet actually works and why Big Tech needs regulation.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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Brain Hacking – Top Internet Term of 2018: Big Tech Gets Us Addicted

Each year I identify the Top Internet Jargon of the Year, the Top Internet Acronym of the Year, the worthy terms that made the Top 10 List, and 5 online trends to look for in the coming year. 

The Internet term of 2018 is brain hacking, and the Top Internet Acronym of the Year is NSFW – Not Safe For Work; the rest of the list includes: clap back, co-working, FIRE, woke, lawnmower parent, QAnon, #TFA and blockchain. Check it out! HOW MANY HAVE YOU HEARD OF?

Everyone's talking tech this year, from POTUS to Congress and Millennials to Big Tech. Here are the Top 10 Internet Terms for 2018. Explanations of the linked terms are on

1. brain hacking - 2018 Jargon of the Year, big tech is hooking us by making smartphones a habit, even Silicon Valley is ditching their devices due to Internet addiction, digital detox and child tech addiction. ADULTS: Please take this 8-question quiz, and for your KIDS: please ask them this 12-question quiz. The term "brain hacking" comes from hijacking peoples' minds to form a habit and it specifically refers to the way Silicon Valley is engineering smartphones, apps and social media to get us hooked, and to get you and your family to feel the need to check in constantly. You know when you're on a mobile social media site and you pull down on the news feed to get it to refresh, and you see that little circle scrolling clockwise... that's called the pull-down refresh and the guy who invented it, is sorry he did because people are now addicted. Read the full story here.

2. NSFW - 2018 Acronym of the Year "Not Safe For Work" from post-#MeToo movements to celebrities tweeting “NSFW headlines” it inspired the new book “NSFW: The Little Black Book of Acronyms

3. clap back - If Oxford’s word is toxic, then the twitterverse is clapping back… it’s a noun, it’s a verb, it’s never been used more than NOW as influencers continue to perfect the art of the clapback, thx Ja Rule

4. co-working – sharing workplaces, it’s a millennial trend with co-living and co-sharing; working in the industry and living in urban areas is impacting people’s lives and creating new business opportunities

5. FIRE – it means "Financial Independence, Retire Early" bravo to millennial crusaders who are geeking out calculating compound interest and blowing up the whole concept of career and retirement

6. woke – young and old are becoming aware, like a man who’s a feminist, or a person's awareness of current affairs, it implies knowledge and empathy as in "You’re woke, so now things are, you know, real."

7. lawnmower parent – first tiger, then elephant, helicopter, dolphin, attachment, free-range,  lawnmowers "mow down" a path for their snowflakes removing all obstacles that may cause a struggle

8. QAnon – what started as a cryptic post grew into a sprawling alternative theory about all things fake

9. #TFA – Omarosa said “they'd just hashtag it ‘TFA’ and move on when Trump did something insane,” it refers to the Twenty Fifth Amendment, as in the removal of the POTUS in the event of impairment…

10. blockchain – the muscle behind bitcoin (which Scrabble just added) it makes bitcoin transactions secure, reliable, and anonymous, it fueled a cryptocurrency craze and helps with ocean plastic too!

Read more about the bold terms on and the Top 5 Online Trends to Watch in 2019:
1. deepfake / facial recognition / faceprint – OMG deepfake wait until you see the photo
2. social credit / social scoring / reputation score – scary stuff from China, wait it’s from big tech too
3. AI / artificial intelligence / machine learning / robotics – unbelievable developments
4. YIMBY & JOMO - Yes In My Back Yard & Joy Of Missing Out – new attitude (not NIMBY & FOMO)
5. CBD –  yes, as in the oil, it’s not an actual acronym because it stands for Cannabidiol

The Top 10 Internet Terms of the Year, compiled by Erin Jansen, founder of
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Please copy and distribute! Our purpose is to educate and entertain :) Get "NSFW" to Decode Flirtatious Slang for Sexty Singles

My friends at crafted an amazing write-up about the new holiday books, check it out... special thanks to Hayley Matthews!

The Scoop: If your crush texts you slang terms you don’t understand, your romance can quickly become lost in translation. Fortunately, NetLingo Founder Erin Jansen has spent over 20 years creating resources to help people keep up with common slang and netiquette, so they never miss a beat in online convos. In the last year, she has written two books that detail the texting and romantic slang today’s daters need to know to get their flirt on.

It’s tempting to overanalyze every word, punctuation mark, and emoji in a text message from a crush. What did he mean by “just hangin”? Was he implying that he was free to hang out with me? Or what did she mean by that smiley face at the end of her reply? Is that a signal that she wants to be more than friends?

Each exclamation point and word choice can offer a clue into that person’s mindset, so it all goes under the microscope as someone tries to figure out if that person is interested in a relationship — or if it’s time to get someone else’s digits.

NetLingo Founder Erin Jansen is an authority on online communication and internet slang.
Of course, sometimes riddling out what your crush writes means keeping pace with the ever-changing internet and texting slang. NetLingo can help with that. Erin Jansen founded NetLingo in 1995 because she saw the internet changing how people communicated and wanted to create a database to reflect new slang, acronyms, and other jargon.

NetLingo now boasts the largest list of texting acronyms and sees over 3 million pageviews a year. Erin has embraced the nickname “NetLingo Girl” and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, and “The Martha Stewart Show” to discuss how technology impacts how we communicate and relate to one another.

Erin’s latest book, “NSFW: The Little Black Book of Acronyms,” focuses on defining the flirty terms that are most relevant to modern singles. Its list of naughty abbreviations is a helpful guide for anyone attempting to woo a date online.

“This ever-evolving lexicon just keeps growing, and someone has to decipher and deliver it,” Erin said. “That’s where I come in: the NetLingo Girl. We may not talk this way, but we definitely type this way, and it’s a strange communication that needs decoding.”

Exposing Dirty Talk & Romantic Lingo on the Naughty List

We’ll never know who first decided to type “qt” instead of “cutie” or “ilu” instead of “I love you,” but such terms caught on because they save texters time and make the conversation feel more intimate — as if you share a language all your own.

“We obviously can’t type as fast as we talk, so that’s how this abbreviated language evolved,” Erin explained. “Plus, people have an easier time being sexy by text — it’s a new way of flirting. Online daters get to learn a new way of creatively expressing sweet nothings to their love interests.”

The NetLingo database has grown tremendously thanks to user submissions. Everyday individuals can submit a slang word or abbreviation to the site, and Erin will review it, approve it, and see it go live on the site. This moderation process has allowed her to keep pace with netspeak, 1337 speak, and online jargon.

“NSFW” would make a nice gift for naughty daters looking for their bae.

In 2018, Erin released two informative books. “Texting Terms” is a nice list of every acronym and abbreviation posted on NetLingo. “NSFW” is a naughty list of all the sexy terms she’s collected in the last 20+ years. “NSFW” is definitely “not suitable for work.” It includes sexual endearments, crude humor, profanity, and references to drugs and alcohol. The book doesn’t hold anything back and gives singles the raw, unfiltered truth. That way, next time someone asks you to tdtm (talk dirty to me), you’ll know what to do.

“When I published ‘Texting Terms,’ the naughty-nyms got lost amidst all of the other acronyms,” Erin explained, “so I played with the idea of creating a little black book version. When I tested that idea, people loved it.”

Now NetLingo users can choose to get a naughty or nice list of online slang. If you’re looking for an adults-only guidebook on sexy slang, you can pick up “NSFW” and learn all the sexty messages and brash acronyms you’ll ever need to know.

“These books can serve as a fun inspiration to keep the conversation going,” Erin said. “It’s important to understand what potential dates are texting you, so if you see an acronym you don’t understand, you can quickly look it up and determine if you should swipe right or left.”

“NSFW” is a ‘sexty’ little black book that highlights the naughty jargon evolving from our online ‘anonymous’ style of communication. Due to its mature content, “NSFW” could make the perfect gag gift for the holidays, but it’s also just a great wingman for online daters seeking ways to get the conversation rolling in a sexy direction.

“‘NSFW’ is meant to be fun,” Erin said. “I decided to give the people what they want. Once I dug deep into my analytics, I found not only is America searching for sex, but y’all talk dirty!”

“Texting Terms” Further Delves Into the Shorthand of the Day

“Texting Terms: NetLingo’s Guide to Every Online Acronym & Abbreviation You’ll Ever Need to Know” has taken NetLingo’s impressive list of texting and chat acronyms and put it into print. The book lists the shorthand and leetspeak used by people all over the world. It has over 3,000 entries, and some will leave you breathless with laughter.

You can say a lot with a little by reading up on common acronyms.

Some of the terms are fairly widespread — bae, MAGA, and imo — while others may not have come across your radar before. For instance, people who go to school or work from home may not have heard of a HIPPO, which stands for “highest paid person in the office.” It’s fun to read through this list and guess what complex abbreviations like WoMoBiJo (working mother with a big job) and 142n8ly (unforunately) mean.

“This handy guide is a great gift for adults who love to spend time online,” Erin said. “If new lingo leaves you 404, you can look up and decode any message in minutes.”

Erin uses simple language to define online acronyms used by millions of people every day. Readers can flip through this book to find a particular term or just to get a sense of the variety of abbreviations being thrown around ESEMED (every second, every minute, every day). Singles can consult this book while texting potential dates so they always look like they’re in the know.

These Slim Books Are Packed With Useful Definitions

“NSFW” and “Texting Terms” deal with slang in different ways. You’ll find sections on assicons and sexty smiles on “NSFW,” while “Texting Terms” deals with more mainstream slang. The raunchy, playful content in “NSFW” appeals to daters interested in sexting properly, while “Texting Terms” appeals to parents who want to understand what their kids are saying. Or singles wondering what a date is saying.

“NSFW” makes for a great gag gift or conversation starter at a party, while “Texting Terms” is more of a practical guidebook for the modern word nerd.

“NSFW” lists adult-friendly terms that could come up when you’re sexting.

“These slim, coffee-table books are great for anyone who loves to spend time online,” Erin said.
Erin has created fun and comprehensive resources that cover the world of online jargon with clear definitions. These books give people insight into all sorts of online conversations. “Texting Terms” even has a section on international text terms, so you can bring the book along when seeking romance abroad.

Police stations, district attorneys, and cybercrime units have trusted “Texting Terms” to help them decode cryptic messages on the web. Meanwhile, brogrammers, online daters, cougars, and other singles have used “NSFW” to help them up their flirting games on the web. Whether your interest is personal or professionals, Erin’s books can demystify textspeak for you.

Additionally, NetLingo offers a wealth of information on technology, language, and modern culture. Erin writes weekly editorials on her blog to give her two cents about headlines in the tech industry and beyond. You can also follow NetLingo on Facebook to get frequent updates on where language is going and why it matters.

Erin Jansen Educates and Entertains Today’s Daters

Since 1995, NetLingo’s online dictionary has helped people understand online jargon and common abbreviations. Many newbies have bookmarked the site to get the 411 on demand, and its popularity inspired Erin to create more authoritative and down-to-earth resources that lower the language barrier between folks online.

Now, people can turn to their hardcopy of “NSFW” or “Texting Terms” to find out what a particular slang term or online expression means. These books have highlighted NetLingo’s most relevant and noteworthy acronyms to give readers a laugh as well as some good information. Singles can use these books to help them get to the bottom of what an online crush is saying.

Erin said she hopes her online audience will appreciate seeing their slang contributions in print and that it will spark many conversations about the funniest, strangest, and most useful slang terms and acronyms.

“My mission is to educate and entertain people,” Erin said. “These books are a form of edutainment. No one else is tracking the online language this way.”

Hayley Matthews
Hayley is the Editor-in-Chief of DatingNews, and she handles editorial schedules, interviews, social media, and partnerships, among other things. She's been in the dating industry for more than six years, and her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Bustle, Cosmo, the Huffington Post, AskMen, and Entrepreneur.

Whether They’re Naughty or Nice, NetLingo has Your Holiday Gifts Covered

NetLingo releases two New Internet Books specially for the Holiday Season: "Texting Terms" & "NSFW: The Little Black Book of Acronyms"

West Palm Beach, FL. November 15, 2018 - NetLingo LLC, creators of, released two new books "NSFW: The Little Black Book of Acronyms” (ISBN 097063966X $14.95) and “Texting Terms: NetLingo's Guide to Every Online Acronym & Abbreviation You'll Ever Need to Know” (ISBN 0970639686 $19.95) on, just in time for the holidays and Black Friday.

You might be thinking WTF kind of title is NSFW and why do I need a book on texting terms? These two book releases highlight online jargon, the crazy array of letters, numbers and keyboard symbols that everyone’s using to comprise our digital conversations today. And what America is talking about is revealing…
“NSFW” is a shocking, innovative and ‘sexty’ little book containing only the naughty jargon that’s evolved from our highly sexualized culture and online ‘anonymous’ style of communication. Things to say to your ‘brogrammer’ or bae :) "Not Safe For Work" is for adults 18+ only, with acronyms too provocative to list here. Mature themes also include assicons, boobiecons, sexty smileys, leet profanity and a micro dose of NASCII art. It’s the ‘little black book’ after all. Take a peek:

“Texting Terms” is NetLingo’s largest list of ALL the texting and internet acronyms. The ‘white’ version. Great for millennials and the White Elephant gift you need for the office holiday party. So, if this new lingo leaves you 404, GL trying to break the code, don’t worry, with these two books you can look up and decode any message in minutes. Both make great coffee table books, ‘toilet humor’ books, gag gifts and fun conversation starters.

NetLingo is the authoritative resource for internet acronyms and online culture, tracking thousands of terms about cyber business, technology, programming and of course, online jargon - the universal ‘net lingo’ used by millions of people on social media, smartphones and the web. “With the internet, new and ever-evolving language continues to emerge,” says Erin Jansen, founder, editor and scribe since 1995, and adds “it’s only getting bigger.” Erin receives new terms daily from her thousands of users, verifies their actual usage, then edits and adds them to the website each month.

The ‘NetLingo Girl’ is considered a web pioneer and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, and the Martha Stewart Show. She is an Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, and writer and speaker on culturally relevant issues about technology and how it impacts our lives. At, her mission is to educate and entertain people worldwide about online culture and communication.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Please copy and distribute
NetLingo is a trademarked product of NetLingo LLC &
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Press Contact: Rossana Jeran    310-663-7734   

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Sex Sells. Let’s A/B Test that Puppy and See Who Bites

Now that the mid-terms are over let's switch it up and have some fun! I did one silly little video about “prairie dogging” on YouTube and it immediately got 36,000 views. Viewers thought it was the “toilet humor” version (which apparently everyone knows about) but instead it was the “geek humor” version (which many of you still don’t know about). Didn’t matter… here was a term that straddled both worlds and in the offline world, it was about something “dirty” so it generated enough views that Google wanted me to put an ad on it.

I make money online with ads but I didn’t bite. I could’ve gone online and explained every little naughty term there is to be had on the Internet in my bikini (that’s what I do, track Internet terms and wear bikinis). Or topless, like the Dutch meteorologists in my motherland do. My BFF and I are geek girls… we get it, we talk about it, and she’s definitely a hot MILF. We’ve often thought we should continue my original NetLingo mission about explaining technology from a woman’s point of view on a vlog. We’d be great… even better than Soledad O'Brien was back in my CNET days. We should probably still do it, half-clothed of course.

It was that idea which inspired my little video exercise, mind you “prairie dogging” isn’t even a sexy term. The funny online explanation is slang for when someone drops something loudly at work in a cube farm and everyone's heads pop up over the walls to see what's going on. The funny offline explanation is when you have to take a crap so bad the turd is popping in and out until you get the chance to release it. Even Planet Mancow didn’t know that definition when I was on national TV with him; sorry Erich Muller but there’s a NetLingo word for that: 404.

I decided to investigate the online jargon I’ve been tracking all these years so I dug deep into my analytics and found, you don't say, America is searching for sex. Gang, I’m an online pioneer, I’ve been writing about internet jargon and cyber culture since the beginning --even before 1995 when the web browser was first commercially released-- and sure enough, y'all talk dirty!

Having worked in the industry all of my professional life, I read publications and hear terms, but I’m also an academic researcher, a Social Psychologist, hell I’m even considered a Linguist, and I’ve never censored anything on It cracks me up, I’ll get a smiley submission from an Intel engineer :) and a detailed net neutrality update from a millennial: We all speak some form of net lingo online. Unlike Urban Dictionary, NetLingo is still moderated and curated. But like Urban Dictionary, the sexy themes keep coming in and standing out.

So, I decided to own it. Give you a taste of what you seem to want. I bit. Now I’m committed. And I’m gonna bring it. Let’s take a look at the naughty side of our online communication with the new book “NSFW: The Little Black Book of Acronyms.” To be able to finally showcase the fun and flirty terms is getting me excited for the holiday season! Were you and your friends NAUGHTY or NICE this year? We've got “NSFW: The Black Book of Acronyms” for your NAUGHTY list, and “Texting Terms” the white version for your NICE list.. take a peek!

Dudes, peeps, my NetLingo friends, I am loving my new "NSFW" book so don’t be surprised when you see my digital doppelganger showing up in my social media feeds. I need a break from all this "Big Tech Politik" Mr. POTUS and chuckle on my toilet for a change. Better yet I’ll be by the pool sexting my bae some “Not Safe For Work” fantasies. It totally helps to flip through this “sexty little book” while I’m doing so... someone get the Kardashians a copy of “NSFW” stat.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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WTF? He Told You the Motive on Social Media: No More “Hopes and Prayers”

If I thought Congress was ignorant about internet technology, you must be idiots regarding guns.

The Thousand Oaks gunman actually took the time, in between killing 12 people, to post on his Instagram during last week’s massacre. Was he asking for forgiveness or acknowledging he was crazy? No. He was mocking you Congress. Not only did he have no reason to do it, he called you out specifically:

“…the only thing you people do after these shootings is 'hopes and prayers'...or 'keep you in my thoughts'. Every time...and wonder why these keep happening... --(two smiley face emojis)."

It’s chilling how social media has given murderers the platform they need to get the attention they want. Anyone in Big Tech who’s made money off of social media is culpable: your creations are causing addiction, teen suicide, live video morbidity, and it’s only getting worse. Hollywood needs to cut out the gun violence crap, and you know why reality TV celebrities suck? Because they’ve inspired this desperate “get rich quick” for your “15-minutes of fame” behavior. Nobody needs more than $10 million in your bank account; if you do you’re just plain greedy. There’s a NetLingo word for that: anus envy.

The fact that this person used two smiley face emojis is psychopathic. Yes, dude you are suicidal and insane, and I’m not giving in to your quest by even mentioning your name. Why do these guys always seem to have three names anyway? Momma’s don’t let your babies grow up with guns and three names.

Listen people, you don’t need to give up your guns. It’s our right to keep and bear arms. We’ve given the Second Amendment 227 years; it’s outdated and clearly not working anymore. Keep your shotguns and revolvers but turn in these military-assault weapons and ban them once and for all. If you think you need your stockpile of weapons in case the government comes after you for some paranoid reason, then you’re going to cause the next Civil War.

So, don’t tell me the “authorities” have not yet determined a motive. The killer told you himself “life is boring” and he basically knew he could get away with it. Military style weapons have no place in this world except for in the military. Do something about it. More people have been killed at American schools this year than have been killed while deployed in the U.S. military. Shame on you.

Congress it has been a horrible week for Southern California. I went to Pepperdine and I’ve been to the Borderline Bar many times. We need your “thoughts and prayers” for the fires, but nobody wants your “thoughts and prayers” over gun violence. The NRA doesn’t send out their “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting, so why do members of Congress, especially when you are the only ones who can do something about it?

I’m a lover not a fighter, and when my sympathetic nervous system is activated to fight or flight, I’ll fly. Between the Parkland students, the Jewish synagogue and this former Marine, you Mr. President and every member of Congress has blood on your hands. You have to start fighting America’s crazy gun violence and pass measures to ban high-magazine capacity weapons. Meanwhile I’m on the next flight to Fiji.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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Big Tech has a Saudi Arabia Problem: Apple's Hypocrisy

Saying goodbye to my iPhone will be the hardest. I admire Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO for voicing strong support for a national data protection law (which I called for 2 blog posts ago in Facebook’s Gone FUD), and I’m glad someone in Big Tech finally said “our own information is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.”

Many colleagues are giving Tim Cook flack however, because it’s fairly easy for him to say this: Apple doesn’t rely on ads for its main business and it limits the data it collects on users. Still, he’s right on the money in calling out Facebook and Google for their hacking scandals, and for describing how much of the online ad industry is now, surveillance. All our personal data is only serving to enrich the companies that collect it.

When Tim took a swipe at rivals in his extraordinary speech “who claim to support rules but lobby behind closed doors to weaken any initiative” well there it was; what used to smell like lobbyists to me is now out in broad daylight. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have all backed some version of a new privacy law so now we’ll be looking to you Congress, not the lobbyists, for clear legislation similar to Europe’s GDPR - under which Facebook currently faces a fine of as much as $1.63 BILLION.

Did you hear me Congress, Mr. President and my new friend Ivanka? The CEO of Apple agrees we need GDPR like I said two weeks ago; when you need someone other than Political Lobbyists to explain that to you, call in the Internet Specialists.

Apple advocating for privacy is definitely two steps forward, so why are they preparing to take one big step back? According to The New York Times, the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has shifted Saudi Arabia’s investment attention from Wall Street to Silicon Valley and Big Tech is jumping… high.

The “Saudi Public Investment Fund” has put $45 billion into a technology fund run by SoftBank and reportedly plans to invest $45 billion more. My colleagues are asking, why does Big Tech want to add a medieval theocracy that still beheads by sword to the criticism they are already facing? Why would Big Tech want to go along with a Saudi narrative and become a reputation-laundering machine for one of the least admirable regimes on earth?

Money. The sheer amount of it offered by Saudi Arabia is unprecedented and to some founders, irresistible. In fact, the kingdom is now the largest single funding source for U.S. start-ups. But Silicon Valley’s morals and idealism in exchange for short-term profits won’t mix well with tyranny. There’s a NetLingo word for it: wild ducks. summed it up: Doing business with tyrants is not only morally the wrong thing to do, it’s economically stupid. 

Investment in Saudi Arabia will prove controversial for Apple. With its draconian form of sharia law, Saudi Arabia’s autocratic government is consistently rated among “the worst of the worst” human rights offenders. Its gender apartheid system treats women as second-class citizens, shrouded in fabric, dependent on male chaperones, and barred from going out alone and from any form of public life. The country has notoriously strict anti-LGBT laws as opposed to Apple's pro-LGBT stances in the U.S. and elsewhere. There’s no freedom of religion. The press is censored. They're covering up the killing of one of their own nationals in their own embassy, allegedly sawing his limbs off and desolving him in acid. Brutal, public floggings and stonings are the penalty for committing adultery. Those arrested are routinely tortured to extract confessions. They've jailed the country's elite inside the Ritz Carlton, for years. Last year, Saudi Arabia put to death 146 people for crimes including murder and drug dealing; most of the executions were beheadings. Not to mention the U.S.-backed military campaign in neighboring Yemen which is killing thousands and putting millions of people at risk of starvation, including whatever else we don't know...? It's not worth it.

Tim, if you really want to throw the privacy rule book at your rivals, then begin by removing Google’s search engine as the default search on Apple devices. We know Apple collects more than $5 BILLION dollars a year in “licensing fees” from Google, so put your money where your mouth is and start there. And good luck with opening your new Apple store over there next year, but don’t let your wild ducks get tamed by Saudi money, because if you do, I’ll go back to Dell.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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China is Beating Us at Our Own AI Game = Not Good for Your Grandkids

Don't think a cold war can't happen again, we are already on our way. For those of us who don't remember the cold war in 1945, hindsight has shown it wasn’t inevitable. The United States and Soviet Union had been allies during World War II, but then a series of choices and circumstances over a 5-year period set the conflict on its self-perpetuating track.

A new article in the November issue of Wired called "The AI Cold War That Threatens Us All" by Nicholas Thompson and Ian Bremmer is a MUST READ. For all of us. If not for you, then for your future children or your grandchildren. The article is more than 5000 words, you can still do it. AI is artificial intelligence.

Even though it's become a joke to think Mr. President Donald Trump will take 30 minutes to read anything, he must - or have Ivanka read it to you, this is of interest to her STEM initiative as well. Members of the Congress, this is your job, to read articles like this one so you can understand the severity of "a new cold war arms race over artificial intelligence (AI)." If you don't understand something, email me ( and I will explain it to you. Here's a paraphrased summary:

In the spring of 2016, an artificial intelligence system called AlphaGo defeated a world champion Go player. The Chinese were perplexed because most Americans were unfamiliar with the ancient game Asian Go, and the technology that emerged victorious was even more foreign: a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning, which uses large data sets to train a computer to recognize patterns and make its own strategic choices.

At the time, Obama’s science and technology policy advisers cheered it and saw it as a win for technology; the next day the rest of the White House forgot about it. In China, however, 280 million people watched AlphaGo win and what mattered was that a machine owned by a California company had conquered a game invented more than 2,500 years ago in Asia.

In spring of 2017, AlphaGo triumphed again, this time over a Chinese Go master ranked at the top of the world. This prompted China to act fast: By October 2017, you may remember seeing China’s president, Xi Jinping, standing in front of red banners and his fellow party members laying out his plans for the party’s future. What many don't realize is that he specifically named artificial intelligence, big data, and the internet as core technologies that will help transform China into an advanced industrial economy.

After President Trump took office, the earlier AI reports were archived, and --I can't believe I'm even writing this, he should be ashamed of himself-- in March 2017, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the idea of humans losing jobs because of AI was not even on his radar screen and that it might be a threat in 50 to 100 more years(!) There's a NetLingo word for that: ID10T. That same year, China committed itself to building a $150 billion AI industry by 2030 (that's 12 years from now).

According to the Wired article, what’s at stake is not just the technological dominance of the United States, it's that the arc of the digital revolution is starting to bend toward tyranny, and one of the only ways to stop it is to keep developing our own AI technology and partner with China on joint AI research and corporations. Yeah right, like that is going to happen. Well it's worth trying, and the only possible way is to learn from our mistakes.

It was never inevitable that the digital revolution would inherently favor democracy. Over the past several years we've seen the crisis of democracy unfold throughout the world and even though it has many causes, social media platforms seem like the prime culprit. Social media has amplified everyone’s worst instincts. Rather than cheering for the way social platforms spread democracy, the authors are busy assessing the extent they corrode it.

Back in China, government officials watched the Arab Spring and other uprisings with unease. Beijing already had the world’s most sophisticated internet "control" system, which could dynamically block a huge swath of foreign web domains, and now The Great Firewall can turn off internet access in zones within cities. In fact, China recently censored, I mean "digitally walled off" the entire province of Xinjiang after violent protests there spread via the internet.

Even Vladimir Putin, a tech pioneer when it comes to cyberwar and spreading disinformation, said the one who becomes the leader in the AI sphere will be the ruler of the world. And Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, has compared artificial intelligence to the discovery of electricity or fire. Yeah, it's that big and it's that important, and AI is just one component to China's advancing technology.

So, the world can commit to America's technology or to China's. The old silk road is being strung with Chinese fiber-optic cables and we're seeing more countries commit to China including Pakistan and huge swaths of Africa. In May 2018, about six months after Zimbabwe got rid of the despot Robert Mugabe, the new government announced that it was partnering with a Chinese company to build an AI and facial-recognition system: Zimbabwe gets to expand its surveillance state; China gets money, influence, and data.

The Wired article aptly states that for the past century, democracies have proven more resilient and successful than dictatorships, even if democracies have made stupid decisions along the way. Well Congress, we cannot make stupid decisions about AI and our relationship with China during the next 5-years. But there is nothing close to a serious debate as to how to address this and so far, you're not doing too great with China. Please read the full article in Wired "The AI Cold War That Threatens Us All" by Nicholas Thompson and Ian Bremmer here:

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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Facebook’s Gone FUD: Why Big Tech Needs Regulation

I never thought I’d say it, but the Internet needs government regulation. The notion of cyberspace as a level playing field was an ideal many indie developers held on to fiercely in the beginning. But along came online advertising and search engine marketing, where anyone could pay-to-play based on secret algorithms; then came e-commerce and Amazon’s demise of the sole proprietorship (big box stores too) while never paying taxes; and now there’s social media, which has taken over millions of people’s lives despite well-known tech addiction issues and personal privacy hacks.

The idea of regulating something feels like you’re taking away a freedom or putting a restriction on me, especially when it comes to the Internet, my beloved, revolutionary wild west frontier. But alas, Silicon Valley needs a sheriff. Big Tech cannot seem to handle the real life threats their technology is creating, both in our country and around the world. And that’s what our government is for: To establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.

Instead I’m writing about hate speech, fake accounts, personal privacy stolen, election manipulation, disinformation campaigns, false advertising, and flawed, monopolistic business practices. Does this sound like America? No, but this is Facebook today. Their business model simply isn’t worth it: To collect data about you so they can target you with ads? Meanwhile identity thieves are stealing our data and our government still has done nothing about it. Congress please tell us: What have you done to investigate whether Facebook can make it through the 2018 election season without another national crisis?

Last week Google got hacked, and this week Facebook got hacked twice… what are we learning from this? Earlier this year Facebook took out full-page ads in the U.S.’s and U.K.’s biggest newspapers pledging to protect users’ personal information. They said if they can’t, they don’t deserve it. Well, we just learned they don’t deserve it. Misinformation distributed by social platforms like Facebook has led to people being arrested, jailed, and in some cases killed. There’s even a NetLingo word for it: FUD. But millions of Americans love their Facebook and want to keep it, so what to do? Time for an educated Congress to step in.

But first, what did Facebook do about this latest theft against them and 50 million of their users? They tried to bury it: As the news of the data breach spread over other sites, you could barely find reports of it on Facebook. Hmm, and what is Facebook going to do next? Spend $1 billion to acquire a digital security firm. Hey Facebook, you told us we were already secure. Sounds like insanity… doing the same thing but expecting a new result. Even you, Mr. President, can realize that more security might help, but it won’t fix this.

Sure enough, the Internet won’t get safer without the government stepping in. Now there are new reports that even Silicon Valley accepts the need for coming regulations. Bravo! But, of course there’s a catch: Big Tech wants to help now only to try and persuade elected officials to create laws that are weaker than the privacy laws currently in Europe and coming to California. Smells like more lobbyists to me.

Meanwhile, it’s clear Congress: Regulatory agencies must hold Big Tech accountable for patrolling their platforms and ensuring that hostile users are removed immediately, and for restricting false accounts. There should also be penalties for companies with bad data security, whether it’s heavy fines or annual fees. Don’t you already have a blueprint for this with the latest Wall Street debacle? Oh wait, you just voted on the biggest rollback of Wall Street regulations, didn’t you? Please Congress, follow the European GDPR formula and look to California to lead by example before the chicken littles are proven right and there is a catastrophic event due to hacking or disinformation.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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