“Where is the line between a successful global business, in-demand services and consolidation of big data – and attempts to harshly and unilaterally govern society, replace legitimate democratic institutions, restrict one’s natural right to decide for themselves how to live, what to choose, what stance to express freely?” Putin wondered.
Addressing the role of social media giants in the recent election in the US, the Russian leader pointed out that these companies “in some areas have de facto become rivals to the government.”
Billions of users spend large parts of their lives on the platforms and, from the point of view of those companies, their monopolistic position is favorable for organizing economic and technological processes, Putin explained.
“But there’s a question of how such monopolism fits the interest of society,” he stressed.
“We’ve all seen this just now in the US. And everybody understands what I’m talking about,” he added.
The Russian leader was apparently referring to the crackdown by Big Tech corporations like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, mostly on Donald Trump and his supporters, during the recent presidential election in the US.
The companies, which, according to some critics, sided with Democratic candidate Joe Biden, blocked President Trump’s social media accounts over accusations of inciting violence, with the same being done to many pages of groups and individuals who’d backed him.
However, one-sided bias claim voiced by some might be an overestimation – the accounts of Democrats supporters were also subject to restrictions, but on a much smaller scale.
Conservative Twitter-like platform Parler was also forced offline, and now there are calls to block the Telegram app as well.
Putin also warned against the “destruction” of traditional values, as well as the right to choose and the right to a private life.
“The social and values crisis is already having negative demographic consequences, from which mankind is at risk of losing entire civilizational and cultural continents,” he said, stressing that it is a global responsibility to avoid this “gloomy dystopia.”
In his opinion, existing economic models are causing a “sharp polarization” in views, leading to both populism and radicalism.
“International institutions are weakening, regional conflicts are multiplying, and the global security system is degrading,” he noted.
The World Economic Forum is an annual meeting of business leaders, political figures and economists, usually hosted in Switzerland. This year, due to COVID-19, it is being hosted in Singapore, with most speakers appearing virtually.
2021 marks the first time Putin has spoken at the event since 2009, when he was Russia’s Prime Minister.