The promise of the internet and personal technology was in its decentralization: one of the most profound advances for liberty in history. Yet at a rapid rate we’re seeing it re-centralized, as governments and corporations—often with users’ willing, if short-sighted, cooperation—are taking control in the center, creating choke points over what we say and how we can say it.
The Facebook situation is helping people, including journalists, see that these choke points are a threat to freedom of expression. For countless millions, Facebook is the new public square. But its terms of service override the First Amendment, as activists and others have discovered. To assemble and speak in the new public square, we need permission from its owner.
The Internet was truly for the people and by the people. Yet, we as an Internet citizen collective are too stupid to establish open-source and free places to congregate. Well, I take that back. Places that are free from corporate influence and control are on the Internet, but the collective is too dumb to know about them. I joined Facebook in 2006/7. My Mom joined Facebook in 2013. How can someone who discovered Facebook 6 years after me be Internet-savvy enough to know why she shouldn’t be on Facebook. Giving all of our eyeball-time to properties controlled by Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Medium is a horrible mistake that wasn’t as the founding fathers intended.
BBS was actually peak-Internet when you think about it in terms of public spaces for single topics on servers that were usually publicly funded or funded by private individuals.