John Harris

Journalist & Author

Street battle: the activists fighting to save their neighbourhood from the tech giants

Facebook, Google and Amazon have not just colonised the internet: their hubs, campuses and offices are taking over huge sections of cities around the world. But campaigners from New York to Toronto and Berlin are fighting back

‘It’s a challenge out here. The way the tech companies are building and increasing their size is just pricing people out. Families who have been here for generations can’t afford to be here any more. They’re being pushed off into rural areas – anywhere from an hour to two and a half hours away.”

JT Faraji is a 43-year-old artist who lives with his family in East Palo Alto, the northern California city on the edge of Silicon Valley. Just a stone’s throw away, Facebook’s global headquarters is his most visible neighbour, and he is also close to a big new Amazon office. He has lived in the area all his life and talks volubly about fascinating aspects of East Palo Alto’s history – like the period in the 1960s when black activists set up a high school and college, and there was even talk of renaming the city Nairobi: “There are a lot of minorities here: Hispanics, blacks, Pacific Islanders,” he says. “But those people are not really represented in the workforce in technology. So the way that northern California is going to look in not too long is going to be very … undiverse.”

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