To my Facebook friends,
I have been fairly quiet on Facebook recently so I wanted to explain why. I have decided to stop using Facebook as a platform for social media and will no longer be posting here. There are many reasons for this but primary are the issues of censorship and security, and Facebook’s recent execrable track record in this area.
For some applications the Internet has wandered far from the free and open information utopia many hoped it would be. Throughout history it has been recognised that information is power and as a result has been a valuable commodity, fiercely protected by a succession of ‘gatekeepers’ or self-appointed arbiters of what information the masses were permitted to consume. From the Church and monarchs in ancient times to the modern state and its lickspittles in the mainstream media, the information and opinions people are allowed to hold is regulated by these gatekeepers in order to serve the interests of power. The internet promised a new freedom of unimaginable scope to exchange knowledge in a revolution that eclipsed even the printing press for its ability to allow unfettered communication with an extremely low barrier to entry. This freewheeling ideal found expression in the original vision for the Web by its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, of a network of interlinked information freely available to all through web browsers but always under the control of the users.
Sadly today that vision appears hopelessly naive. The internet has become centralised and deeply commercialised, overpowered by a collection of large players that offer products carefully designed to appeal to our vanity and allay our fears of hopeless anonymity, but which in turn carry a heavy price: our identity. Over time we have come to depend on these products, integrating their tendrils ever more deeply into our daily lives while seemingly oblivious to the increasingly draconian pounds of flesh that are extracted in the form of our personal information but in particular our own minds as we are manipulated into holding only approved opinions through selective access to information. The gatekeepers are back, bigger than ever, but this time in digital form and they mean business.
From the social media giants of Google, Facebook and Twitter to the mainstream corporate news and media sites we are bombarded with content and expected to toe the line in terms of whatever pre-approved social messages we are being fed. Censorship has now become perfectly acceptable under the guise of ‘preventing hate speech’ and ‘creating a safe environment’ for the terminally triggered who have a visceral aversion to being exposed to ideas they disagree with. Indeed it appears to have been turned into a social good by those who are afraid of what might be said. Add to this the open political bias of these giants and their supporters and we are into very dangerous territory.
Facebook has recently been on a spectacular purge of conservative and libertarian content, (“coincidentally” just before the US midterm elections) mostly with little or no justification. Many people who have invested a large amount of time building an audience and a business on the platform have had that pulled from under them with no redress. Google carries out its own censorship of search results to punish content that is not in line with its own political worldview. Social and mainstream media have far more ability to swing elections through manipulation of popular opinion via selective access to information than any Russian bots, and clearly they are not afraid to use it.
I find this issue in particular deeply troubling as we move towards a more authoritarian and globalised world, a world intolerant of independent thought. As the quip goes, “1984” was a warning, not an instruction manual. The covert (and not-so-covert) censorship of dissenting opinion by these companies to further their socio-political goals is something I am no longer prepared to support through the use of their platforms, products and services.
I believe markets are the way to solve social issues peacefully, so I will be searching for a new social media home that holds values more aligned to my own. Along with the demise of the Google+ platform which was my primary social media site, this decision means I will be looking to divest myself of as many Google and Facebook services as possible as they have shown that they cannot be be trusted with the goodwill I had placed in them. This will obviously be inconvenient as I will need to build social networks from scratch again but I believe it is worth standing up for principle. Any new network will need to have a clear policy in favour of free-speech and user privacy, as well as having the minimum features to make it useful as a social platform.
For those that are interested here are the platforms I have found so far that look promising and have enough momentum to make them useful, although none can match Facebook/G+ in terms of comforting familiarity, maturity and reach:
The only site that threatens Facebook enough that they try to dissuade linking to it with a scare-quotes warning about lack of security (not only factually incorrect but a bit bloody rich coming from Facebook).
This is probably most likely the best option for me as it has a nice mix of features and the source code for the site is open source. The CEO is committed to freedom of speech and you can earn cryptocurrency for posting content. A good replacement for Google+.
An easy to navigate site that is reminiscent of Facebook in appearance and usage. Again, the management team are committed to free speech.
Possibly the most difficult platform for the non-technical in terms of initial usability but also probably the best in terms of privacy and longevity. The whole platform is decentralised and blockchain-based with rewards for posting content. It will be a toss-up between this and Minds for security of content.
One of the earlier and very admirable attempts to create a completely free and open distributed social platform, one where the users maintain ownership of their data. It is strangely compelling to use in it’s simplicity and clarity. Not a single site, but a network of instances federated together into a larger community. Pluspora is an instance set up specifically as a new meeting place for those displaced by the demise of G+.
This is where I currently publish content and link to it from the other sites but it is purely a blogging site with no real social interaction.
For those who are more interested in the vile cesspool of filth known as Twitter, the following may provide an alternative:
Unfairly, yet predictably, mischaracterised as a platform for Nazis, Gab has a commitment to free speech which is sadly lacking in Twitter. Hint: if you think free speech is only for Nazis then *you’re* the Nazi. Yes Antifa, I’m looking at you.
A micro-blogging platform like Twitter but based on distributed federated principles similar to Diaspora. Free speech policy is dictated by which instance you join.
There are others in varying states of development and use. It is also possible that many of these will go the way of MySpace in the future. Time will tell, let the market decide.
I would urge anyone who genuinely cares about freedom of thought and of individual expression to find alternative social platforms that do not entice you into an ever-shrinking walled garden of carefully curated and socially pre-approved opinion with ego-flattering trinkets like being able to post pictures of your lunch. You are more than that, and you are paying far more for that privilege than you can know.
I will leave the account open for now in case the existing content is useful for anyone and will check back occasionally but I will no longer be posting.
Have fun, and look me up on one of the alternative platforms if you choose to jump ship at some point