Endofascist infobusinesses

Image: Sabrina Gelbart


The regulation of Big Tech networks, which presupposes continuous regulation, once legally established, is also politically legitimate, as a public and democratic demand

The framed transition

The supposed demassification in the scope of electronic communication – a process erroneously associated with various forms of social appropriation and use of digital and interactive technologies, from the end of the 1960s – sowed, at least, an irreversible horizon: digital platforms (of relationships and participation, education and information, search and consultation, entertainment and commercial exchanges) represented, in fact, the death knell for the information monopoly controlled by analogue means of mass communication.

In the wake of widespread computerization, the miniaturization of digital technologies and the culture of sites, cats e Blogs, these platforms led to the ultimate consequences of transferring, into common hands, not only the direct ownership of any and all circulating content, but also the possibility of immediate reaction to it and creation based on it, in addition to distributing it and/or radiate it in a branched chain, with support for self-customized profiles.

To the so-called “acephaly” of the mass consumers of media conventional – mass viewers, radio listeners, readers, etc. – followed by billions of interactive heads, pivots of a complex web of local, regional, national and international interconnections (geographical reach depending on the power and reach of the equipment and network in play, as well as the dromoaptic capacity – linked to speed – of the user). The social-historical nature and function of this cybercultural dynamic, with unpredictable political consequences, is far from being deeply and definitively understood.

To remember Jean Baudrillard, as many unknowns remain as the nature, function and consequences of the masses linked to the television, radio and print systems. Here is the main point: the much-needed political and cultural achievement of the liberation of signs (news, images, information, etc.) from mass industrial-monopolist captivity and their commercial transition to the post-industrial and algorithmized universe of common heads and hands culminated in an exuberant collective symbolic production technocratically framed by the transnational and hegemonic ideology of billion-dollar business models, proposed and managed in cyberspace by the so-called Big Techs (the majority still based in Silicon Valley, on the west coast of the United States.

In addition to catalyzing perception and competing for the attention of individuals as a form of monopolistic capitalization of the desire for belonging, participation and sharing, the technocratic ideology of Big Techs fosters – and feeds on – reactive drives (often compulsive and infra-rational, although not unconscious), in neoliberal conditions (that is, deregulated and supposedly free, in the shadow of the State, under the omnipotent fantasy of productivist individualism and under the utopian-irresponsible belief in the exclusivity of the market as a vortex for generating well-being).

This feedback incentive of immediate reactions bets on interactive self-regulation by the social itself, as if psycho-emotional drives – from everywhere and nowhere – could operate in (and concatenate in) a rationality devoid of problems, despite the flow of an acephalous market equally at the mercy of the oscillating moods of the news landscapes, today originating from and replicated on so-called “social networks”.

In such conditions - the same ones in which educational institutions appear powerless for centuries to manage (let alone control) trivial human drives (such as racism, misogyny, lgbtphobia, xenophobia, etc., patriarchal psycho-emotional inclinations in terms of constructing the image of others and interactions interpersonal) –, the user universe functions efficiently as a vortex of resonance of unresolved experiences (insistent interaction traumas, inerasable intergroup grudges, unexpected and unmourned frustrations, etc.) and of incontinent projection of prejudiced and stigmatizing practices – demons of the ego and the unconscious, intemperate and, in general, sublimated in conflictive contexts.

Evidence from the period clearly shows that this social self-regulation – in this case, through collectively random forms of appropriation and use of digital technologies and interactive networks – has pressured society to tilt politically and dangerously towards the extreme right, by benefiting all types of people. resentful and vengeful intentionality, expressed in uncivil ways of treating others. In the prodigal wake of mass media audiovisual production (since at least the 1930s), this self-regulation has, unfortunately – it is necessary to remember – also contributed to the deepening of sociocultural idiocies and anti-scientific imbecilities. The fake news are a synthesis of this deja vu majestic, with serious political and social reverberations.

The aforementioned tendency (towards the extreme right) is inseparable from ultra-conservative dissatisfactions with the current models of the capitalist system, sculpted under historical pressures (in the last two centuries), in streets and squares, by millions of workers and unemployed – landless, without -homeless, often stateless – in favor of civil, social and social security rights. This long and bloody mass international journey culminated in significantly state-regulated socioeconomic systems; in a series of legal containments or restrictions on the expansionist drive of capital, especially large capital (prioritized here); in (very flawed) progressive taxation schemes to alleviate material inequalities; a greater share of participation by the popular and disadvantaged classes in democratic decision-making processes on civilizing paths; and in the diversified liberalization of habits and customs (from which commercial inducements are not divorced from capital itself), among other hard-won tendencies to minimize risk and damage.

In Brazil, this scenario of State hegemony under the social democratic Magna Carta is severely disliked by all ultraconservative aspects, displeasing technologically advanced and, at the same time, politically reactionary sectors of capital and its representatives (except when there are state subsidies...) - from the countryside to the city (or, if you want, from agribusiness to the armaments industry and start-ups billionaire neoliberals, parasitic co-opters of the network).

There is no frustration that does not find a mirror in the past. By historical nature and epic propensity, capital – whatever branch it may be – has always pulsed unconditional freedom in a multilateral exploratory direction. Whether or not they are subject to legal responsibilities, their owners and representatives, whether fulfilling them or circumventing them, consider unbearable any state and moral ties to the realization and expanded reproduction of exchange value, except laws that equalize economic-financial exchanges at expected competitive levels. Such phlegm pattern deepened after World War II.

In recent macroeconomic terms, neoliberalism – and this contextualizes the voracity of the prefix “neo” – means, not by chance, a certain political “rebellion”, as calculated as it is organized, within the legal system, to try to implode legal provisions – one by one – which limit the eagerness of capital, this sniffing out opportunities for quick profit in the shortest possible time, whatever the sociocultural, political and ethical consequences. The environment, in the open wound of planetary warming that is difficult to reversible, is a gross symptom of this insanity with grounds for reason. Food on the table, with scientifically controversial fertilizers and pesticides, too.

The expectation of compliant capital constitutes a dangerous humanist fantasy: hands intertwined, she prays before different packs. A major initiative with capital appeased by the doctrine of human and social rights is rare. Strategic setbacks in any of its branches are observed exclusively under intense and continuous pressure from opposing political and social forces, whether supported by the State or not.

Endofascist infobusinesses

The most acute political observation of the previous topic deserves re-angled emphasis: factual trends have long replicated, everywhere, how some segments of Big Techs condition free space and green lights for world views and feelings that intoxicate, with organized vehemence, civil interactions , undermining, something more, the necessary openness to different ways of life. In particular, the dynamic structure of digital relationship, participation and sharing platforms – which, together with interaction systems via smartphones e tablets (by applications), enable the formation of social networks (such as YouTube, Facebook, hands intertwined.

The outcome is clear: the expansion of Big Techs, due to their infotechnological ascendancy over all social instances, goes hand in hand with the proliferation of Nazi-fascist, supremacist and similar groups. For the same reasons, the cybernet businesses are, directly or indirectly, involved in the ultra-rightist pressure on democratic systems and values. Without a project established in favor of these pressures, Big Techs, however, contribute to the disgrace of painful historical achievements.

The argument that there is an accidental coincidence in this huge detail is frivolous and, in bad faith, uninformed. In terms of corporate construction, the business models of these mega companies actually encourage historical, political and institutional regressions.

The aforementioned symmetrically proportional relationship – between the expansion of corporate-digital conditioning and the proliferation of right-wing authoritarian narratives and practices – obeys relatively stable socioeconomic rules in capitalism. Digital platforms for relationships, participation and sharing are freely appropriated (that is, incorporated into their own field, into individual reality) by social categories that are economically and cognitively prepared to do so (however precarious the equipment and network access package may be). ), especially in periods or contexts of political, religious and/or moral dispute.

In the random game of these appropriations and uses, groups, parties and an extensive entourage of the extreme right have, for years, largely gained the upper hand, with more advanced control over underworld factors. online (the call dark ou deep Web) than left-wing associations and strands, in the political and cultural fields.

When it comes to ventures in the multiple area of ​​interactive technology (artificial intelligence at the forefront) as a vector of civilizational development, the “set of work” reported above, seen from a different perspective, reveals what is not surprising from a historical point of view: there are cards of innovation that are equivalent to (and/or are egress from) endofascist infobusinesses.

Corporate architectures in the real-time information segment, these cyberbusinesses they are not, originally, fascist commercial models of sophisticated technological entanglement. Once open to all forms of appropriation and use, they end up, in the intensive capitalization of individual participation and expression, opening themselves up, however, in their internal socio-technological spaces, to all types of far-right narratives and trends, with harmful consequences unforeseen.

They begin as regional or national experimentalisms of neoliberal entrepreneurship in a network and, due to the cross-border membership of billions of people, they are converted, often in record time, into ultra-profitable mega-companies, with global ramifications. This is the case of extracting profit from the mine of interpersonal relationships (and, in essence, the desire to be and appear, belong and share) through digital machines and networks (desktop with e mobile devices).

No ruins only a relevant political fringe (in general, forgotten) of the notion of social responsibility (falsely captive of the exclusivity of the environmental field): thirsty for profit at any cost, the argument, also frivolous, washes its hands of the need for permanent concern with the construction of society in the constitutional light of collective and effective well-being. Corporate ventures with strong sociopolitical and moral consequences are all the more part of this watery cynicism.

If there were genuine and continuous interest from Big Techs in the opposite direction of this patent indifference, it would still be worth not forgetting that the social has unappealable whims: a historical construction too complex for drawing board schemes, it will never be an algorithmic-statistical Darwinist organism prone to the success of dromoaptos rotating around machines and digital platforms 24 hours a day. (From an individual point of view, dromoaptitude concerns the introjection and incorporation of speed as a systemic value of the time.) The social does not bow – and will not bow, remember – to interpretative simplifications of any corporate mentality.

The case of Big Techs is no exception: the more robust the attempt to overdetermine the social, the more flawed the result. Such simplifications, which greatly raise the eyebrows of pious ethics, never tire of programmatically bordering on danger: the social cannot be reduced – nor will it ever be reduced – to the mere sum of communication networks controlled by private capital and, in the “service provided”, advertised as a “public space” for interactions (with human and artificial beings).

The social cannot be reduced to a kind of clay that can be molded by business models in the interactive, virtual and/or algorithmic segment, even more so when they allow, under their beards and/or at their expense, the definition (political, always) of who dominates or not its corporately conditioned spaces and, in the electoral shadow of this process, who has the right to engulf the social totality. Even under uncertainty, the principle of structural recycling of everything and everyone is usually relentless: what works at a certain historical-political moment – ​​due to the socio-technological unpreparedness of the opposition forces – is difficult to repeat identical success later on.

The impossibility of any sophisticated business engineering that depreciates the multiple power of the social when trying to fit it into its corporate injunctions finds itself burdened by the evidence that total self-regulation by the market of appropriations and uses threatens current republican and democratic dynamics. To a certain extent, the complete arc of this political ruin passes through the occupation of State powers, in a sinister hornet's nest today stimulated by the existence of social networks. It is worth, for clarifying purposes, to invoke the progressive mantra that has been converted into common sense for years (in fact, that of a slaughterhouse): the neoliberal fundamentalism of the extreme right needs the democratic game to take over the state apparatus, erode labor and social security achievements (carved in the wake of blood since at least the beginning of the XNUMXth century) and implement dictatorial and/or autocratic dynamics supported by all types of deregulation, even at the expense of (the resurgence of) slave labor conditions.

The argument that corporate digital networks are open to any views and feelings about the world – more precisely, all of them are welcome, even genocidal ones – takes on, in this context, an air of fallacy, as well as a populist mockery: the attempt to provide of equal or equal public spaces for communication does not equate to a compensatory gift for any business initiative; mere quantitative diversity does not galvanize the balance of social forces that guarantee the ideology of democracy.

Fallacies can never entirely camouflage their cunning: views opposing the extreme right, today mostly confluent for the status quo, do not threaten, neither from within nor from without, this plural form of government. If it were minimally valid, the discourse of equalizing conditions open to the myriad of appropriations and uses of digital networks, however, would be, as a commercial proposal, primary: it converts democracy into democratism. All political corruption is, if not naive, despicable – it is never stupid: in this case, it goes to the wide open to generate profit (material or symbolic, immediate or deferred).

The banality of this rough shell – corruption convinces only the unsuspecting – soon gives away the iceberg whole. The profile of Big Techs is, in fact, based (not exclusively) on financial ideology (in short, money ideology), supposedly neutral in its crude objective propensity. Fake news and hilarious denials from extremist groups and associations bring in lots of money to the platforms. From the perspective of these businesses, the acute political discord, especially the uproar (with trends and lengthy cycle), is transformed into a pillar of virulent capitalization.

Still contrary to the aforementioned populist fallacy, if democracy praises mathematics (being, in modern times, one of the results, due to a majority quorum), it does not equate to linearly quantitative conditions. The gravity of the reason demands historical experience: democracy cannot calm down political forces that wish to destroy it. It can have several drawbacks (and live with all criticism, from the legitimate to the bitter), except for flirting with ignorance or ineptitude. If it overexposes its own backbone, it contains, against itself – in a strangely masochistic way – nostalgia for totalitarian regimes: it plays into the enemy's hands, putting pudding in its mouth.

Cybercultural Keynesianism

The set of factors above, which signals a certain neoliberal exacerbation of algorithmic business, contributes to the fact that, today, Big Techs have to swallow the only possible political solution for them – a widely emerging solution, defended in several specialized segments and in instances of State, in Brazil and abroad: the democratic regulation of digital platforms* – something that the hope of justice, in the required diplomacy, does not err by clasping as cybercultural Keynesianism.

In the 1930s, John Meynard Keynes discovered cycles of uncertainty and disequilibrium in the self-organized development of industrial capitalism – critical cycles insoluble without State intervention as a macropolitical agent of boosting the economy.

This intervention presupposed, in a linked way, four essential policies: tax, financial, debt and investment. The collection of taxes (compatible with the State's support needs), the regulation of the interest rate (located below the rate of profit on capital, to discourage its retention in the unproductive financial system), the capture of credit (in the form of debt insurance) and the strengthening of productive state spending (generating employment and, with it, a consequent cycle of prosperous income and effective demand) – these main goals of the Keynesian diagram – converged to ward off the specter of economic stagnation of capitalism.

Contrary to this structural corrosion, the greater expansion in the supply of formal jobs (by either the State or private capital) and, simultaneously, the preservation of the broadest employability contained symptoms of maximizing productive activity. Currently, it is beyond doubt that such measures – controversial at the time, within liberalism – gave impetus to the reproduction of the capitalist model of society, shaken by the serious crisis of 1929, with depressive effects during the third decade of the XNUMXth century.

The rationality of this safeguard made it possible to curb socio-structural “dysfunctions” typical of the free market, which could, as contradictions, lead capitalism to a new collapse – contradictions, for example, such as the coexistence (in any case, never abolished) between, on the one hand, regularity of high rates of industrial and commercial profit, combined with the maximum concentration of affluence in a tiny portion of the population, and, on the other hand, continuous systemic unemployment, with an uncontrolled widening of the margins of poverty and misery. The state intercession proposed by Keynes responded to the attempt – illusory, of course – to condition, in the medium and long term, a more equitable division of wealth, in order to mitigate social damages and risks, stabilize full employment and provide national well-being.

Apparently, the need for democratic regulation of Big Techs has required that the technical humus of this macroeconomic conception be, mutatis mutandis and in general terms, filled with intrinsic illusions and transferred to the interactive context of cyberculture, due, solely and exclusively, to the social reverberations (of appropriations and uses) of digital platforms – obviously, there and here, due to different factors (and which the first two topics of this text demonstrated per se).

The historical-political regression operated by extremist appropriations and uses of these platforms, under deregulated Big Techs, was such that the legitimate and intense concern with the socio-institutional security of democracy started to combine with the recurrence of technical-reformist procedures similar to those of the recent capitalist past – a concertation that, in turn, self-validates (the unearthing of) previous and compatible expressions, such as “Keynesianism”, to minimally put an end to the scabrousness – minimally: that is, without guarantees. Regular twists and turns in history only surprise, more than the unsuspecting, evolutionary puerility, whether religious or not.

In the interval between the two main technological wars of the XNUMXth century, Keynesianism, as a State regulatory policy, was essentially economic-financial. In cyberculture as a historical epoch – the most advanced technological phase of capitalism inherited from the end of the XNUMXth century, based on digital and interactive processes (from network robotics to algorithms and artificial intelligence, and beyond) – the Keynesian equivalent takes on political expression. informational, with economic-financial and cultural repercussions.

Just as the expanded reproduction of industrial capitalism engendered the macro-reformist technique of Keynesianism, of anti-liberal shock to contain systemic-recessive crises, minimally equalize harmful structural effects of the market and reject the entropic threat, formal democracy (as the construction of the Rule of Law) under Algorithmic capitalism has required, as a technique of political prudence, a Keynesian-type glocal reformism, of anti-neoliberal shock in the sphere of information and culture, to appease the amoral voracity of Big Techs, dehydrate the sinister extremist and isolate the authoritarian threat.

This injunction means that, in societies marked by appropriations and random uses tending to electorally hegemonize the extreme right, there is an urgent need for democratic regulation of social networks on the initiative of progressive civil society and with participatory support from the State – both of which are decisive. Brazil is one of those cases – and, it seems, it will be that way for a long time.

From the opposite angle – and in all words, to emphatically reiterate the identical position –, the ideological core of cybercultural Keynesianism presupposes that Ministries and State Secretariats, together with democratic segments of civil society, should lead the process of regulating digital platforms to reduce damage and risks of collectively random self-regulation (at the mercy of perilous political and moral appeals, market and audience), in times of network infestation by Nazi-fascist, supremacist and similar groups, with habitual hateful distillation.

In particular, the State – an institution financed by society, subordinated to the Magna Carta and, therefore, established (at least, in expectation) in the form of the Rule of Law, guardian of democracy (this, a collective heritage in progress, receiving inveterate defense as an irreversible achievement) – can never, in this horizon, be apart from articulatory tasks: it is a crucial beam for the complete resolution of the problem.

A fundamental flex of the process was recalled (and proposed) by Sergio Amadeu da Silveira: the complexity of the social construction of a legal framework of this nature “involves the definition of a multisectoral commission that can audit, adjust and permanently monitor the implementation and application of the regulation”. Furthermore – and first of all – this legal framework obviously needs to derive from broad public discussion, in light of previously agreed principles and criteria and transparent procedures, beyond any doubt, including “explanation, accountability of the operation and management of content , data and algorithmic systems of the platforms. It should be added that this socio-institutional instance, of a stable, autonomous and indissoluble nature, implemented by the State, must be impervious to interference of any nature and impassive to government cycles.

In pragmatic and succinct terms, legal necessity dictates consolidating the final version of the Bill (whether the one in progress since 2020, or another) and making it pass through the National Congress, with plenary approval. Subsequently, the matter must pass through the Presidency of the Republic, for sanction or veto. If there is a partial veto, the respective content returns to Congress.

Strictly speaking, there are no reasons for boasting of unpreparedness, simulations of astonishment and unfounded fears. From a macrostructural and socio-institutional point of view, cybercultural Keynesianism – a legal mechanism with a social democratic profile, in a soft and diplomatic, of fair intervention in part of the network technology market –, in a certain way, it does not fail to configure, in an etymological sense, a conservative strategy: it is intended to preserve democracy in its formality of the Rule of Law, phase sine qua non (which is expected to be) a historical and expansive breath of human dignity in the civilizing process.

The progressive aspects of the center-left and the political, legal and cultural segments defending human and fundamental rights thus resort to the primacy of the Rule of Law against all forms of authoritarianism, to rearrange the socio-technological injunctions of political chess and, with This is to prevent advances and threats that historical experience has already shown to corrode the Rule of Law itself from within, as well as the democratic system – young and (still) tenuous in Brazil, which deserves care.

Nor should it be emphasized – as obvious and dispensable – that the prioritization of the issue of corporate conditioning of digitalized spaces for far-right practices and speeches never neglects the urgency of regulation now to protect and guarantee, without retreat and tergiversation, privacy and personal data , in view of business procedures without transparency regarding the destination of this information without users' consent. This caveat significantly expands the scope of platforms in this study [including Google (and other browsers), TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit, Kwai etc.].

The regulation of Big Tech networks – which, in fact, presupposes continuous regulation; and, once legally established, it is also politically legitimate, as a public and democratic demand – it constitutes a life or death battle for the survival of democracy as a universal value, form of State, government regime and modus vivendi daily. In this detail, there cannot be any weakening of resistance in the progressive field.

Without this regulation of cybernet businesses – it should be noted – the rage of Big Techs threatens the social-historical expansion of democratic civilization itself. Either Big Techs carry out business based on nationalized socio-legal pacts or the future of political regimes in several countries, especially republican and/or parliamentary ones, will prevail bleak: for now, the social logic of digital platforms tends to throw out republican instances and mechanisms of democracy in the landfill of history, the same one in which, since at least 1945, Nazi-fascism has rested, sparkling and restless.

Furthermore, “it is democracies that should regulate platforms and not platforms that should define what democracy is or should be”, Sergio Amadeu da Silveira rightly notes.

The political concern with the long term has, in this scenario, unquestionable justification: as previously stated, the regulation of digital platforms needs to assume a permanent nature while educational systems are insufficient or powerless, like social institutions, to consolidate, so to speak, a pedagogy of critical reception to the current media agenda and, along this path, mass cyberacculturation of users, to the point of preventing them from becoming hostages to extremist speeches and narratives, both in dark ou deep Web, as well as in any groups or network interaction lists. Whether cybercultural Keynesianism will be able to achieve it, only direct political experience will demonstrate it.

Socio-structural function of digital platforms

This regulatory function of the State and civil society can never be seen as censorship, even in a classical semantic pattern. It is, rather, a macrostructural necessity in favor of maintaining democracy as a universal value. The ideological objective of cybercultural Keynesianism consists of avoiding, in the civil sphere of the coagulation of mass flows, systemic-republican distortions that pose political danger to this preservation.

Censorship is, in this case, a State mechanism that falls arbitrarily and directly on the content stratum: an unwanted symbolic production begins to suffer authoritarian sanction in its circulation for contradicting current interests. In contrast, cybercultural Keyenesianism, covering a different stratum, presupposes, first of all, operation at the level of the macrostructural function exercised in society by digital platforms.

If this injunction ends up reaching, at the end, threatening contents, it is a consequence of the fact that the social is equivalent to daily symbolic production (verbal and non-verbal) and is, therefore, interwoven by the profusion of discourses and narratives, without minute off. The shift in focus from the issue of content (produced by individualized participation, creating a data trail) to the issue of macrosocial function represents a crucial aspect of the debate on the regulation at stake.

The self-defensive and accusatory speech against the supposed censorship of digital platforms constitutes a puerile dissuasive stratagem, intended to camouflage open wounds socially (by endofascist infobusinesses) by draining public attention to equivocal or side aspects – and also invoking, in this expedient, the name of democracy . Such diversionism is subordinated to the thesis of content moderation. Proposed as an absolute alternative solution to any and all controversies, the measure has been – for better or worse (under condescension and also with a blind eye) – carried out by the companies themselves. Extremist groups, however, continue to proliferate on social media, under the permissive influence of corporate constraints.

Freedom of private enterprise, whatever it may be, can never guarantee abuses or excesses that, in favor of the prosperity of legal businesses, spill over profit interests into the symbolic-political universe of society (in an operation of capitalizing desires for inclusion, participation and sharing), to the point of opening up to drives and intentions of violence and death against people with modus vivendi different, against the Rule of Law and against democracy as a universal value.

Post scriptum

As a rule, the media system (mass, interactive and hybrid), as well as all segments of political struggle around spaces, positions and reasons (inside and outside the State) revolve around discourses and narratives – which focuses in the field of content production practices. These contexts are subject to the decisive symbolic froth of the day, in which disputes of all kinds play out (material and symbolic) chances of life and death.

The University, on the contrary, is free to encompass the socio-structural function of both this spiral of discourses and narratives, and the technocultural systems and instances used in its irradiation. It is no coincidence that this article was written from the point of view of this macro-structural function – that of the University –, threatened and vilified by the voluntary rusticity of the extreme right. (The full version of the text will be published in a scientific journal).

* Eugene Trivinho é professor of the postgraduate program in communication and semiotics at PUC-SP.


* The controversial Bill 2.630/2020, informally called “PL das Fake News” [or, for the extreme right, “PL da Censura”], was to be voted on in the Chamber of Deputies in April 2023, after approval by the Federal Senate under an emergency regime (that is, without going through internal Committees). The Bill and the ultra-conservative reaction to it reignited public debate. As expected, Big Techs acted strongly – inside and outside the network – against the approval of the proposal. The cooling of the controversy is apparent. The matter is on the agenda. It must bequeath to the country the respective “Internet Freedom, Responsibility and Transparency Law”.

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