What’s more important? Google or Democracy?
It’s like we’re Alice teeting on the rabbit hole of our oblivion.
Is the ‘internet must remain a free & open source’ crowd the problem?
It’s painfully apparent to me at least, for over twenty years a free and unregulated internet has dramatically benefited a super-elite of data billionaires. I see a perfect realization of an Ayn Randian nightmare. I see my profile traded on a block. I see my life monetized.
Many excellent & worthy industries have fallen victim to this ill-conceived campaign of mindless disruption, coupled with an insidious strain of solutionism. Solutionism is solving problems that need no solving. Or worse. Monetizing problems humans have for the purpose of creating new data veins of private information to exploit.
The latest victim is our democracy. What price are we willing to pay to continue on this course? A free and unregulated internet has laid bare the vulnerabilities of democracy.
In a recently published article on Buzzfeed, Aviv Ovadya discussed the coming information apocalypse.
The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.
The simple truth of Trump is he couldn’t exist without an assist from the fake news explosion. The perfect storm gathers around an American president who has a native genius for using disinformation to his advantage. Alternative reality is the coin of our media future unless we decide to defend truth.
I’d put this in terms markedly unpopular with data giants like Google and Facebook. A majority of humans like truth, like facts, stand by the methods of scientific proof, are happy to examine and vet history and engage in critical debates with an agreed upon agenda of principles. Most humans would gladly join together in gated communities of honestly vetted information.
From my perspective, the answer is to drive the extremes to the extremes, marginalize the data-fascists. It feels to me like we need to grow up. Fast.
Free speech needs protections. A healthy free and open sourced internet is only possible within a defined and regulated structure.
“Alarmism can be good — you should be alarmist about this stuff,” Ovadya said one January afternoon before calmly outlining a deeply unsettling projection about the next two decades of fake news, artificial intelligence–assisted misinformation campaigns, and propaganda. “We are so screwed it’s beyond what most of us can imagine,” he said. “We were utterly screwed a year and a half ago and we’re even more screwed now. And depending how far you look into the future it just gets worse.”
It’s not complicated. Our current administration aggressively resists any examination of the data manipulation of the last election simply because were we to shut it down, they’d never get elected. And in that resistance, the administration finds fellow-travelers with Google and other mega-data corporations marching under an twisted Orwellian free-speech banner.
Truth is under assault. What the internet needs is a good editor working with an agreed set of universal principles and values. Truth is worth the fight.
Is that a windmill to tilt at? Is that impossible? Nothing is impossible in Silicon Valley’s sprawling vision of our future.
The liars and propagandists must be labeled and driven to the far edge of our digital communication. Intellectual property needs to protected. Humans own their lives. Our individuality must not be monetized for the benefit of shadowy super-elites. These are the costs of our future. These are not impossible things. These are just things that must be done.