Internet trolls have many talents: They are often funny, know how to get online communities talking, and are as close as anyone to mastering the mysterious art of going viral. But we would rarely, if ever, call them commendable.
Ian Madrigal might be the exception. The activist’s knack for photobombing the congressional hearings of your favorite corporate villains elevates the humble troll to the makings of fine art. They first rose to prominence during the October, 2017, hearings over the Equifax breach that exposed the personal information of more than 143 million people. Today, Madrigal repeated their signature gate-crashing stunt during Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai’s congressional testimony and, once again, managed to steal the show
Madrigal, a strategist with a progressive shop called Revolution Messaging, calls their activism “causeplay,” a play on cosplay. There have been a few other characters over the last couple years, including an appearance as a literal troll during a hearing for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But Monopoly Man is the most memorable. Perhaps that’s because, as Madrigal tells Inverse, the Monopoly Man is the perfect embodiment for one of their main policy priorities: corporate consolidation.
“Users have no say in how Google uses even our most personal data, and the only way to opt out is to boycott the internet itself,” Madrigal tells Inverse. “When we allow corporations to behave like monopolies, everyday citizens have less control over their daily lives.”
Pichai was appearing before Congress to explain to lawmakers how the company uses all the data it collects. Law-makers on both sides of the aisle alluded to the possibility that Google is growing to be too powerful. On the left, Democratic lawmakers fired away with questions about anti-trust, discrimination, and content creators of color; from the right, Pichai faced a barrage of questions about whether search results exhibit an anti-conservative bias.
Madrigal says that all of these potential problems stem from a lack of regulation, and argues that Congress needs to “step up” and enforce more accountability.
“We can’t rely on tech giants to self-regulate,” they say. “Google spent more money lobbying Congress than any other company, and Congress has done nothing to regulate them.”
You can check out the rest of the hearing live here.