A New Age of Tyrants
The Impact of Google, Apple Inc., Facebook and Amazon

Known by the acronym GAFA the four American IT giants – Google, Apple Inc., Facebook and Amazon – are predominating the world market. And something lurks in their shadows . . .


“It’s So Useful”

– is what everyone thinks about the services offered by GAFA. The ‘platforms’, as the business frameworks are called, offer a huge variety of services on one website, and its usefulness caused a huge rise in users worldwide.

Amazon started off as an online bookstore, but now it offers film and audio downloads, and even has streaming services.

Some people find Google’s video streaming service, YouTube, so addictive that they even take their smartphones into the toilet to continue watching.

When our editors told acquaintances about writing an article on GAFA, the response came almost like a threat: “We won’t stop using those services!” GAFA services are now so much a part of our daily lives that it almost feels criminal to criticize them.


GAFA Net Worth US$3.1 trillion

Statistics clearly reveal the extent to which these services have penetrated our society. Looking at each company’s shares, we find that Google has 92% of the search engine market, Apple Inc. has 54% of the U.S. smartphone market, Amazon has 44% of the U.S. e-commerce market, and Facebook has 76% of the social networking services market.

The collective market value of GAFA amounts to USD3.1 trillion. The value of just these four companies is equivalent to 60% of Japan’s GDP. GAFA’s status remains unaffected by new rivals because of their tremendous power in the market. They are treated like the darlings of the age for their ability to make the world grow.

But is GAFA truly undefeatable? Is there not something important we are losing due to the rise in usefulness? Let us look now into the harm that GAFA is causing.


The Price of GAFA’s Obsession With Efficiency

Recently many people have been voicing the harmful effects of GAFA services. Below is a brief look into the price that is being paid in exchange for ‘success’.


Amazon began as an online bookstore but has now become the world’s largest retail company. As a result, many bookstores and toy stores (including Toys”R”Us) that run physical shops have been closing down. On the other hand, Amazon only paid 2% in taxes to the U.S.

Amazon-produced items are manufactured in Chinese factories where workers are underpaid and overworked: workers are allegedly paid an hourly wage of a mere USD$2.26 and only get a day off every fortnight.

Amazon’s provides useful services in exchange for taking work from other companies and making their workers labor under poor working conditions.



Illegal uploads on the Google-powered platform, YouTube, has caused a steep global decline in the number of people who pay for music. The employment rates of U.S. musicians and performers dropped by 30%, and many people are indignant that “Google has killed the music scene”.

YouTube may be free, but it is undeniable that the creators get the short end of the stick.



Facebook’s photo-sharing app Instagram has become popular, even amongst celebrities. In June 2018, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users worldwide. But despite the rise in users, the number of employees at Instagram remains the same. Its success does not contribute to the rise in employment or economic revitalization. The expansion of free services is not a contributing factor to economic growth.


Apple Inc.:

It is well known that Japanese companies support Apple Inc.’s technology. The Liberty Magazine has covered the story of one such company in the past. The owner, Mr. Kobayashi, is a master craftsman who polished the iPod’s iconic stainless cases.

Apple Inc., however, betrayed Mr. Kobayashi by filming his work process and sending that video to another company to do the work accordingly. In other words, Apple Inc. is exploiting Japanese companies like a colony.


GAFA and The Law of The Jungle

From a consumer’s viewpoint GAFA may appear to be a hero. Changing that viewpoint, it becomes clear that their methods mean the death of many smaller production companies. Dean of the Successful Management faculty at Happy Science University, Mamiya Suzuki, says thus:

GAFA’s main principle is “innovation in distribution”. It’s all about efficiency: how cheaply and quickly a service can be provided to the consumer. In order to achieve this they demand lower costs on the production side and drive a hard bargain. As a result, contract companies don’t make enough profit, and only those really robust ones survive. That’s how the system works.

GAFA may look like superior companies, but (aside from Steve Jobs) they all make profit out of advertisements for goods and services of other companies.

It is natural that they are criticized for their “winner-take-all” style, because they are giving capitalism a dose of profit-hungriness.

GAFA itself does not use self-developed technology but fights using other people’s armor. Unlike the manufacturing innovations of the past that developed in the Industrial Revolution (such as automobiles and steam engines) GAFA aims for innovation in distribution. It does not have the power to lead the future economy. If anything the GAFA distribution revolution has caused employment to drop and the wealth disparity to widen.

What is lacking from GAFA is the philosophy of cooperation and cohabitation. Their obsession with efficiency represents the law of the jungle where the strong prey on the weak.


The Internet Threatens Democracy

We may be inclined to think that the Internet is more neutral compared to the press. But this gives rise to a bias that threatens democracy itself. GAFA influences our thinking more that we realize.

“I was surprised when I noticed one day that the [political] conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed.” So said Eli Pariser in his TED talk. Many websites including Facebook and Google uses an algorithm that analyses vast masses of user information to automatically filter information based on each users past activities.

This may seem convenient at first, because it means we always get to see our preferred information first. On the other hand, it means that they take information that they think is irrelevant to us and filters it out without our permission.

It is verging on censorship: we are made to see a particularly prejudiced selection of information at all times. This is what is called the “filter bubble”. The filter bubble deprives us of opportunities to see different sides to a story, which necessarily narrows our stance. In the U.S., this is now seen as a bigger problem than the fake news problem. This awareness will soon spread around the world.


IT Companies and Arbitrary Censorship

Facebook, Apple and Google each have their own standards of censorship. This information, however, is not disclosed so we have no way of knowing why we can’t see certain pages.

One thing that is clear is that political conservative opinions are being targeted. For instance, we know that the Facebook administration held a debate whether to erase Donald Trump’s opinions by dismissing them as ‘hate speeches’.

In 2017, Twitter suspended a U.S. Senate candidate’s anti-abortion “100 percent pro-life” campaign. They also tend to reject posts by Trump supporters and politicians who show patriotism and faith in God. In fact, this issue has become so big that it was discussed in a Senate hearing in January.

During his election campaign, Trump slammed Google for removing news reports criticising Hillary Clinton. Now we know he wasn’t bluffing.


GAFA Isolates

GAFA’s algorithms aim at making users spend more time on the platform. The more time the user spends on the platform, the more likely they are to click ads, or the more likely the consumer will buy a product. Amazon continues to bombard their customers with ‘recommendations’, and 35% of their profit is made this way.

On the other hand, GAFA has no interest in the pursuit of truth or meaningful debates. The recommendations and suggestions that come up as a result of Google and Facebook algorithms do not ‘connect’ us to the world: it isolates us and we lose the skills to engage in discussions with people who have different opinions. It turns us into information recluses.


No Ethics to the Algorithm

Democracy is imperative to good journalism. When all is said and done, the current press at least aims for the pursuit of truth, and makes news reports with the awareness that other opinions exist. For over a century humankind has developed the ethics of journalism in this way.

The algorithms that IT giants use, however, do not act according to that ethic. When we try to get information solely through the Internet, we inevitably end up with warped opinions, and this becomes harmful to the advancement of democracy.

If those who rule the media rule the world, them we can safely say that GAFA now rules the world. And there is no one to keep their power in check. At this rate, humankind is going to become slaves to GAFA.





Master-Servant Relations: Humans or Data?

Associate Professor at Chuo University

Hiroshi Miyashita


Miyashita is a former visiting scholar at Harvard Law School and served in the Office of Personal Information Protection in the Cabinet Office of Japan. His publicans include four books on privacy and over 100 academic articles.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented in the EU in May 2018. How should Japan respond?

GAFA’s utilization of the vast mass of personal information is becoming a worldwide issue. And this is increasing interest in the EU’s GDPR program. The GDPR was implemented in May, and it is the world’s strictest law on the protection of personal information. I believe this legislation to be a global breakthrough.

The GDPR does not specifically target GAFA, but aims to return the rights of managing personal information from the companies back to the people.

For instance, if a company takes a user’s personal information without their knowledge to place an ad on the user’s screen, it gets filtered out. Online ads themselves are not prohibited; the purpose is to fully disclose what and how a company uses personal information.


Opinions on What Personal Information Means

In the U.S. and Japan, personal information is regarded like a product that can be bought and sold. In other words, “data is the master and humans are the servants.”

Especially in Japan, the protection of personal information is not considered a human rights issue, but rather a matter of compliance. It only becomes a problem when companies leak the information. Japan is quite behind on this point.

In Europe, however, “humans are the masters, and data is the slave.” The GDPR is essentially asking which do we prefer: a world where personal information is freely bought and sold, or a world where personal information is protected and where people know how their personal information is being used? The EU states that the GDPR allows users to provide personal information without having to worry.

I think Japan ought to disclose how our personal information is being used, and to create an Internet environment where users don’t have to worry about being controlled by it.

Europe is also trying to use their European Competition Law to prevent IT companies from monopolizing the market.

Google and Facebook own a huge bank of personal information that not even the state knows. We need a countermeasure against privates companies that hold more power and surveillance potential than governments.

A time will come when users will choose companies dedicated to protection of personal information.

(End of Interview)



IT-Slavery Emancipation Declaration

The GAFA problem doesn’t mean we should reject IT itself.

We must think about how IT companies can help us find the ideal relationship.

Many people misunderstand and think that GAFA services promote freedom, spread democratic values and help create an ideal society. In truth, however, it is a tyrannical beast that feeds on other people’s employment and freedom.

Back when the automobile industry had just started, a rise in traffic accidents prompted the need for better traffic regulations and manners. That’s why automobiles are not known as murderous things, but as modern conveniences.

Likewise, our current IT industry does not have its regulations and manners. As far back as 2009, Master Ryuho Okawa, Founder and CEO of Happy Science, had been warning about this disregarded area.

In the past the fathers of fascism appeared as political and military leaders; but the “Hitler’s of the 21st century” will appear amongst people who control huge companies in the information industry, such as Microsoft and Google.

We won’t know the faces of the new tyrants of the 21st century. They will emerge out of IT companies that control information outside of our knowledge. This is exactly what is now happening.

The following are four arguments for debate for GAFA to stop their tyranny and develop into a true modern convenience.


1. Jungle Laws to Cooperation

Most important of all is for GAFA to realize the need for business ethics. Shuichi Fujisawa, who is celebrated for being the father of modern capitalism in Japan, rejected the notion that one businessman should become wealthy at the expense of a poor majority in society. Such a business is unethical, he said.

The founder of Panasonic, Konosuke Matsushita, emphasized cooperation and cohabitation, and always saw to it that his contractors got their fair share in the profit.

Companies around the world must challenge GAFA’s methods of profiting through advertisements, and demand that they fulfil their noblesse oblige.

The European consumer goods company, Unilever, has threatened to withdraw its ads from GAFA platforms on the grounds that they “create division in society and promote anger and hate.”


2. Creating Key Industries to Secure Employment

GAFA, making most of their profits from advertisement, means that they are leeching on the hard work and added value created by other companies. It effectively reduced employment in industries related to those companies, and limits wages.

As a result, it slows down the economy, encourages the implementation of basic income, and therefore creates heavy-tax welfare states.

U.S. President Donald Trump is resisting this flow. His tweets such as “Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” are a shock treatment approach to changing the way businesses think.

His simultaneous tax cuts and deregulations are boosting employment and adding enthusiasm to the sagging U.S. manufacturing industry. He is showing the citizens the ‘joy of work’.

Japan must do likewise and go forward with tax cuts and deregulation to revitalize the spirit of hard work and put more energy into creating key industries. Japan’s forte has always been craftsmanship, and industries such as aeronautical, space, robotics and new energy are potential outlets of talent. Creating industries that produces high added value is the power that will precipitate the next industrial revolution.


3. An Anti-Monopoly Law for Free Competition

GAFA’s arbitrary censorship divides society and threatens democracy. Through censorship they could potentially construct a world that places little importance on values such as patriotism and religious faith. Already their anti-national ambition for global predominance is beginning to show.

In order to resist this predominating power, we must abandon the notion that the Internet is neutral. Just as Mr Miyashita said in his interview, we must establish the idea of “the rights to personal privacy”.

In Europe where this right is protected by law, private information belongs to the person in question and there have already been over 2.6 million cases where that right was used to delete their information on the Internet.

An anti-monopoly law against GAFA will also protect the interests of the consumers. We must challenge those IT giants sitting on their high thrones and guarantee free competition. It is time to say “No” to the invisible tyranny.


4. An Awareness of Fighting the Tyranny

To create new industries and champion democracy, each and every person must become a part of a “thinking people”.

One harmful aspect of the spread of IT is the huge rise in IT addiction, and the psychological harm that has on children, such as shorter attention spans and decline in academic performance.

Master Okawa also says that while the Internet is convenient, it carries the risk of taking away time we could spend with creative ideas.

In Silicon Valley, the Mecca of the IT world, some schools prohibit Internet use among children below the age of 15 because it inhibits the child’s self-development and religiosity.

Countries in Asia must actively participate in raising awareness of Internet addiction and encourage the reading of books, and, perhaps, even revise their educational policies.

Creativity and thinking abilities are what will prevent people from falling prey to the new age of tyranny.

In order to make a world where each individual is respected, creates added value, and embraces the joys of work, we must establish a strong ethical philosophy in the IT industry so that companies can function under a set of rules.

Additionally, developments in AI technology will continually make us to question what it means to be human. We must fight to protect our freedom and those values that humankind cannot do without.


Summary of the IT-Slavery Emancipation Declaration:


  • Invest in future industries and create employment and national wealth
  • Implement anti-monopoly laws on GAFA to ensure free competition
  • Implement a legislation that protects personal information on the grounds of privacy rights



  • Urge GAFA to fulfil its societal responsibilities and reinstate ethics in the world of economics
  • Regain the spirit of craftsmanship and focus on creating new industries



  • Discard mistaken notions about GAFA and regain rights as individuals
  • Exercise self-control to avoid IT addiction and work to become a thinking creative being
A New Age of Tyrants
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