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07.11.20

Free (as in Freedom) Software + Social Control Media ≠ Free Speech

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software at 8:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

At door

Summary: Speaking through middlemen and private platforms is bad enough (that gives others unjust power over speech); to claim that because the underlying platform is free/libre software it therefore becomes a non-issue is also dishonest

TECHRIGHTS does not do Social Control Media (also known as “social media” or “social networks”). It’s a total waste of time compared to self-hosting (blogs or equivalents). I myself am still posting some updates and notes there, notably news links while preparing these for Techrights (with its routine batches of Daily Links). Those quick quips are full of typos, inconsistent style, and are generally regarded as unimportant — at times barely coherent (no context) — and totally unpolished (not worth the effort). The ‘shelf life’ of those quips is the same as that of a pierced apple outside the fridge. The impact is limited, editing is not possible (even mere correction of typos), it’s difficult to find old ones (good luck searching now that chronological search is phased out for better “engagement”), and hosts go out of existence quite fast. In Fediverse, for instance, I’m already on my third account due to censorship and shutdown (operator giving up). There’s no substitute to hosting one’s own with RSS feeds; federation can be impeded at software level or at pertinent nodes. Banishment is outside one’s own control. Some people learn it the hard way (e.g. Google+ or Mixer). “Planets” are another issue; we’ve already seen how Debian, for instance, silences particular developers in an act of retribution (or an attempt to hide something). But it cannot ban the original developers’ blogs. It’s de-centralised.

“There’s no substitute to hosting one’s own with RSS feeds; federation can be impeded at software level or at pertinent nodes. Banishment is outside one’s own control.”It’s a little surprising that not more people talk about or address the subject; blind assumptions include the assumption that Social Control Media is here to stay… forever. We’re often being told (a false promise) that if the underlying platform is free/libre or “open source”, then this magically implies “freedom” and “free speech”; people who express controversial views in such platforms (not even anything illegal) would attest otherwise. Just as Free software is being used to build many “clown computing” platforms that are proprietary (“LAMP” as in (GNU/)Linux, Apache, MySQL, Proprietary Software) and user-abusing, e.g. surveillance, Free software is used by Identi.ca, Diaspora pods and Mastodon instances. But none of them respects free speech absolutely. None. MINDS is arguably even worse and it is centralised, so once you’re out forget about coming back. They tried de-platforming me at least thrice before (but I won the appeal and came back).

Social Control Media as a concept is flawed. It does nothing for freedom and does plenty for confrontation because people are confronted by views they would otherwise never subscribe to (unlike, say, RSS feeds). When you toss a whole bunch of people from different cultures into the same pit you get something wholly and entirely different from specialised forums people choose to participate in. The chaotic and divisive nature of the communication leads to feuds if not threats, resulting in bans, silencing (usually some sort of of shadowy sanctions), and permanent termination with no recourse/appeal opportunity.

“It would be nice to see more people blogging again, leaving comments, reading RSS feeds. It would help democratic structures and alleviate somewhat the spread of misinformation.”Who needs this trouble? In due course it leads to self-censorship (due to fear of being de-platformed), political AstroTurfing (hard to police/guard against that) and sheer hate. So much more could be said about Social Control Media, but we’ll keep that aside for another day. Just remember that Social Control Media is inherently designed for social control, i.e. censorship, not freedom of expression.

While writing this post my brain went into somewhat of a ‘thought storm’; I even forgot some of the points I was planning to mention. The same thing happens when one enters the above sites; the “trending” topics sway one’s attention away and if that’s not bad enough (the topics are cryptic; more like clues and hearsay, not information) the notifications will do the rest (to remove focus/concentration).

It would be nice to see more people blogging again, leaving comments, reading RSS feeds. It would help democratic structures and alleviate somewhat the spread of misinformation.

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