Local politics vs global firms

Local politics vs global firms

Local politics had always been a major concern for global firms. But I see a big change in this relationship. Before the internet and before the multinational technology firms, the old global firms had an easier time dealing with local politics. In fact, in many places, their goals were in line with local administrations. Both the politicians and the old global firms wanted profits and power above anything else. And due to the lack of proper watchdogs, they could collaborate with whatever political party was in power.

Things are not that straightforward these days. The new breed of global technology firms is acting a lot different than the old industrial giants. The founders of new giants come from different backgrounds and they talk to a very different set of people. Profit and power don’t come before anything else. They really do care about sustainability, political correctness, fairness and transparency.

The latest example is the case of the Israel-Airbnb controversy. This Tuesday, Israel had elections, and nationalism was high on the agenda for the current leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli settlements were a big part of his campaign.

He thinks that those settlements are a natural part of Israel and it is O.K. to deport Palestinians and seize their lands.

The world, however, does not agree with him. An Amnesty International report published earlier this year argued that digital tourism giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor are profiting from “war crimes” by offering services in Israeli settlements.

After this report, Airbnb announced that they will remove the settlements from their listings.

But it did not end there. They faced boycott calls from Israeli politicians and a big legal action from the owners of the settlements.

That’s why, home-sharing platform Airbnb has announced it will back down from a plan to remove Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank from its rental listings to end lawsuits brought by the hosts.  “Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform,” the San Francisco-based company said in a news release. “We will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank, but Airbnb will take no profits from this activity in the region.”

Profit generated from Airbnb listings in the West Bank will be donated to non-profit groups dedicated to humanitarian aid in various parts of the world, according to the startup.

The decision would have affected around 200 homes in Israeli settlements that had been listed on the platform.

In the good old days, a global company like Airbnb would have been fully cooperative with the Israelis. But the internet and the generation born with the internet are changing everything. It has to challenge the unlawful actions of the Israeli state. It is in its DNA and it is what the company’s main customer base expects.

We will all see the time when those with the upper hand in politics, intimidation, lobbying and blackmailing will not matter. I believe that with time old politicians who are only capable of creating chaos to stay in power will lose big to the youth, who have naturally become global citizens thanks to the internet.

Ersu Ablak, Politics, global economy