The time of the fortified multinational may well be coming to an end, but not through government enforcement or international law being implemented, but via technological advances. Google, Koch Brothers, and many more need to pay close attention, because now consumers can bring down a multinational company simply by using their mobile phone.
Darcy Burner, the former Microsoft programmer, pitched a very simple yet revolutionary idea at the Netroots Nation gathering: What if you could boycott a monopoly-like supermarket product via an app? What would that mean?
Well it is called ‘Buycott’ and it should be very much welcomed by Libertarians around the world, because it empowers consumers to the levels of awareness that could have only have been drooled over in the past.
Starting with Koch Industries, which is the holding company of Georgia-Pacific (GP) and many others. GP sells its products in 27 states across the USA, which include: “Brawny” paper towels; “Angel Soft” toilet paper; “Mardi Gras” napkins and towels; “Quilted Northern” toilet paper and paper towels; “Dixie” paper plates, bowls, napkins and cups; “Sparkle” paper towels; and “Vanity Fair” paper napkins, bowls, plates and tablecloths – you name it. Furthermore, if you buy Lycra clothes or a Stainmaster carpet, you could be indirectly handing the Koch brothers your money, as Koch Industries also own Invista, which is one of the largest producers of textiles worldwide.
Koch Industries is a pretty big deal – in case you didn’t know. The owners, Charles and David Koch, use their influence to lobby and campaign for their own political goals. Nothing wrong with that, you might argue – lobbying is a common part of the political process. And you would be right, but that does not mean you have to fund their political activities if you happen to disagree with them.
Take a look at other companies which own multiple goods and also lobby heavily and you might shine a flashlight on Coca-Cola. The multinational drinks manufacturer owns a plethora of products, such as: Monster Energy, Dannon, Barcardi Premium Mixers, POWERADE, Evian, and hundreds of others (scroll in filter to “view all”). I’m not saying it is a bad thing, all I am asking is: did you know?
What Buycott is doing is such a delightfully simple idea, yet it could send shockwaves through any industry across the world; now you can boycott a product if you feel that the motives of that company – be it through political donations, lobbying, anti-environmental product sourcing – are a negative on your personal beliefs. It gives the consumer much more say over where you spend your income, and ultimately, in whose pocket that money ends up.
And it would appear that while consumers are being empowered through new innovative devices, global giants are being accused and confronted by not doing enough to provide a fair experience for their customers – all the more reason for Buycott-like apps to exist. In fact, Google has been recently accused of unfairly promoting products or services which are listed via its specialised search tools, such as its own Google Shopping. The accusation is based on the notion that customers are kept within the Google framework and rival search services are discriminated against.
If the accusations are true about Google and how they display their information, then we can be sure that there will be a consumer backlash – perhaps even more noteworthy than how internet users behaved after the PRISM scandal in the United States. However, at some point in the future there could be an app produced which will be able to help consumers further explore the internet, just like Buycott has done with supermarket shopping and so on. That app could revolutionise the way we surf the web, and if and when it does come, companies which are not practicing fair tactics will be flagged up. It’ll be up to the informed consumer then where they spend their time browsing, just like we are starting to do with our supermarket shopping.
This is the a definite milestone, and it establishes how technology can undermine the status quo of corporatist markets. It is now increasingly less likely that consumers will buy into the fancy marketing techniques of a company when that company’s information and dirty little secrets are spread all over a mobile phone at the touch of a button – especially when that information is free for you to have.