HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.
HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Denmark Says Tech Giants Affect It More Than Entire Countries, Decides To Appoint Official 'Digital Ambassador' To Them

from the if-you-can't-beat-them,-establish-diplomatic-relations-with-them dept

As you may have noticed, here on Techdirt we write quite a lot about companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. That's partly because they are very rich and very powerful, and therefore tend to be driving many of the key developments in the tech field. Some think they are too powerful. Here, for example, is Robert Reich, writing for The New York Times, in a 2015 piece entitled "Big Tech Has Become Way Too Powerful":

While in 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of all page views in America, by 2010 the top 10 accounted for 75 percent. Google and Facebook are now the first stops for many Americans seeking news -- while Internet traffic to much of the nation's newspapers, network television and other news gathering agencies has fallen well below 50 percent of all traffic. Meanwhile, Amazon is now the first stop for almost a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything. Talk about power.

As Reich points out, the European Union seems to agree, and is investigating Amazon, Apple and Google for various alleged abuses of that growing power. More recently, the European Commission signalled that it was not happy about aspects of Facebook's takeover of WhatsApp. But not everyone thinks fighting tech giants is the solution. Here, for example, is what Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen has announced, as reported by The Local:

Saying that tech giants like Google and Apple now have more influence than many countries, Denmark will become the first nation in the world to appoint a so-called digital ambassador.

Samuelsen said that through the ambassadorship, which has not yet been filled, Denmark will work toward better relationships with the American tech firms that have amassed fortunes much larger than some of the countries with which Denmark practises traditional diplomacy.

There's a certain logic there, but it does set a worrying precedent. If there's an official digital ambassador, why not have an energy ambassador for the giant oil and gas companies, and a drug ambassador for Big Pharma? And won't that kind of political apparatus provide yet more ways for already influential companies to bend and shape government policy in a country -- tipping the balance against ordinary people even further?

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 3:09am

    This largely depends on what said ambassador has power to do. If he/she is some sort of watchdog that has some power to stop abuses or at the very least put them under heavy scrutiny with priority within the Govenrment it might be a good thing. It all depends on how much power said 'diplomat' will have.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2017 @ 5:01am

      Re:

      Said diplomat is a diplomat. Anders Samuelsen is part of "liberal alliance", which is a party stretching from conservative to libertarian ideas. They are against any progressive redistribution and for liberal public rights. This smells like an idea they have cooked up, just like the "ministry of public innovation", which is a rack tag of mostly IT and "starve the beast"-implementation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 3 Feb 2017 @ 4:29am

    "While in 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of all page views in America, by 2010 the top 10 accounted for 75 percent"


    Does anyone know what percentage of households read the largest newspapers 50 years ago?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2017 @ 4:38am

      Re:

      Or listened to the radio?

      (before tv)
      .. no really, there was such a time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 5:35am

      Re:

      That number would still be quite small. While no doubt most households read the largest newspaper in their city, it was a different newspaper in each city.

      I doubt that even major chains of newspapers reached anything remotely like 75 percent of readers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 6:49am

        Re: Re:

        "While no doubt most households read the largest newspaper in their city, it was a different newspaper in each city."

        In the US, sure. European countries tend to have national press supported by smaller local papers. Most people would tend to read both a national and a local paper.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Strawb (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 5:35am

    To be honest, I don't think many people take the position very seriously. Extra official positions like "digital ambassador" and the like are often pretty toothless, and are more symbolic than anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2017 @ 5:38am

    Digital Ambasador

    ...another name for the single point of contact for funneling money for governmental approval/lining pockets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    trump vader, 3 Feb 2017 @ 6:23am

    hey if i start a cooirporation now ....

    hey if i start a cooirporation now , can you tak eme to dinner for a free tax payer paid lunch?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 7:11am

    Point to one thing that helps big tech companies like google that hurts anyone besides other big non-tech corporations that politicians have actually passed if you think google/etc are too powerful.

    You can only point to one thing that politicians killed for them (not passed), and that's SOPA.

    So yeah, I'll believe tech companies are powerful and influential in the eyes of politicians when they start to pass bad legislation that's just designed to be a big giveaway to google/etc while screw over everyone else, similar to the how killing net neutrality will hurt almost everyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 7:15am

    And how many divisions does Google have?

    Denmark proposes changing the meaning of ambassador in ways they may come to regret. The typical ambassador manages relationships between countries within a framework of relative power that includes, somewhere at its base, the raw power of military muscle. Companies have very different resources and responsibilities.

    Google especially has vast economic might, but no military might. Or does it? It has access to the most advanced military machine in the world but none of the responsibilities that normally come with that kind of power. It's not a country and it won't behave like one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 9:13am

      Re: And how many divisions does Google have?

      "The typical ambassador manages relationships between countries within a framework of relative power that includes, somewhere at its base, the raw power of military muscle. Companies have very different resources and responsibilities."

      In this age of "security companies" like Blackwater, I wouldn't be so sure that a major corp like Google could *not* field a ton of the "raw power of military muscle".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2017 @ 2:42pm

      Re: And how many divisions does Google have?

      Several politicians in Denmark have been openly complaining about having too few political bones to throw at retiring politicians. This came at the back of Bertel Haarder getting pummeled in Germany for getting mentioned as a future consule of the border areas between Denmark and Germany. The government forgot to talk with the current consule and the public in the area about the plan before they announced it. A shitstorm of proportions arose and the current consule denied having any plans of retiring... The current government in Denmark is made up of such rank amateurs with no sense of what reality even means...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 3 Feb 2017 @ 8:02am

    Digital is a Foreign Land

    Back in the 1950s, microwaves and tech were foreign to the higher-ups. Now it's the digital technology that's still a foreign land.

    In a decade or so, the digital natives will laugh at the digital ambassador and wonder why he's not the minister, just as with energy, economy, education, and other important areas or our lives.

    Remember, Hillary Clinton can operate a blackberry but not a PC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 8:48am

    Corporate Governance

    There's a certain logic there, but it does set a worrying precedent. If there's an official digital ambassador, why not have an energy ambassador for the giant oil and gas companies, and a drug ambassador for Big Pharma? And won't that kind of political apparatus provide yet more ways for already influential companies to bend and shape government policy in a country -- tipping the balance against ordinary people even further?

    Shhh....you're not supposed to be giving away the plan this early.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Doug (profile), 3 Feb 2017 @ 9:28am

      Re: Corporate Governance

      Corporations should be forced to operate within a system that is designed for and serves the citizens it represents. What we have instead is a government that is heavily influenced by and operates to serve corporations. There is lip service given to how anything that benefits corporations indirectly benefits citizens, but too often it is just whitewash.

      We need to demand much more vociferously the government we're supposed to have: "government of the people, by the people, for the people" that Lincoln said shall not perish from the earth. It certainly seems to be fading if not yet perishing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jdgalt, 4 Feb 2017 @ 1:53pm

    Why don't we reciprocate?

    I move that Cyberia appoint an ambassador to Denmark in return.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.