Decentralization…! Here We Come! On to Web 3.0!

By Paula LaBrot
Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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English philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in the mid-1800s, “The fraud is the pretense that the welfare of ordinary people matters to the elite, when the reality is that it does not. The last thing that politicians, newspaper companies, industrialists, or the heads of large organizations want is a free-thinking and wide-awake public and electorate.” Now, I don’t care what your political tastes are, but having the free flow of information controlled by a tiny group of people drunk on power is something we all have to come together and deal with, rapidly and effectively. I have been writing for some time now about how important it is to break up the monopolistic corporations that are swallowing up our ability to have choices. There have never before been such monopolies over the control of information. In the past, there have been innumerable local papers expressing a wide variety of editorial opinions, usually attempting to keep editorializing on separate pages of what they considered to be strictly news reporting. Today, a few giant tech corporations are controlling the free flow of information and opinion, making all your editorial decisions for you but there are many people trying hard to attack this problem. I have already written about Timothy Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, who has released a platform called Solid, an open-sourced privacy system launched last month. “A growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy,” he says. Cindy Harper, writing for Reclaim the Net, reminds us that, “Currently, users do not have much choice of the data social media companies and advertising companies harvest from them, which they then sell access to for huge profits.” Solid focuses on decentralizing the web, giving power back to the users as to who may have access to their data. Glen Greenwald won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of Edward Snowden’s revelations of the U.S. National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance and collection of communications of American citizens. Described as unapologetically progressive, Greenwald is appalled on moral and ethical grounds at the abuse of power of the tech giants. He has decried “the pathologies, illiberalism, and repressive mentality” of Silicon Valley’s iron-fisted tactics. “These are the viruses that have contaminated virtually every mainstream, center-left political organization, academic institution, and newsroom.” Snowden, himself, says, “…Trump’s social media ban will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech…. I know a lot of folks in the (Twitter) comments [who] read this are, like ‘YAAAAS,’ like, I get it. But imagine for a moment a world that exists for more than the next 13 days, and this becomes a milestone that will endure.” Concerned digital citizens across the spectrum, from Breitbart to The Guardian to Mother Jones, see the need to act clearly and effectively to confront the tech oligarchs and break up their power. This brings us to Section 230, of which you will be hearing a lot. Section 230, the Communications Decency Act, says, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Today, however, tech oligarchs can make their own rules and decide in any way they want who is “breaking” their rules and shut those voices down. For example, big problems have arisen in the COVID-19 fight. The giant social media platforms curated information, deciding which doctors’ opinions should be allowed to be expressed and whom to block. They decided which medicines work or don’t work, which makes it ripe, and probable, for Big Pharma payola. Dissenting opinions were blocked. Doctors and scientists were attacked and discredited. How many of you know about The Barrington Declaration? It’s a declaration signed by prominent doctors and scientists from all over the world regarding a focused protection approach to the virus. It should have been in the public forum for discussion. The tech oligarchs are curating, editing but they cannot hide behind the 230 shield that protects them from liability. Publishers can’t do that. TV and radio networks can’t do that. Playing so viciously with freedom of speech, Big Tech has put Section 230 at great risk, inviting government control. Think what that would mean for Wikileaks (not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation). All of us lose a great deal of freedom because of the actions of a few. Concentrated power is always risky. This is how it works right now. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple want to eliminate competition. A little start-up ignites, gets popular, and one of the biggies wants to buy it. If the little start-up does not want to be bought, a campaign attacking them and discrediting them ensues, ending in capitulation or ruin of the little guys…reputations included. THE BATTLE OF GIANTS AGAINST DAVIDS It would be easy to sell the Parler battle as a liberal/conservative fight. It’s not! It’s an elimination of the competition fight. It’s a battle to hold onto supreme power. It’s a battle of giants against Davids. For example, because so many conservative voices were blocked on Twitter and Facebook, a lot of people left Twitter and Facebook to try out Parler is an uncensored community forum of microblogs, like Twitter. They will only block content that is in violation of the law and case precedent. They have an entirely different approach to user data, very much in line with privacy protections. Basically, it is competition for Twitter that is gaining traction. This week, Apple and Google have blocked the Parler app from their stores. AWS, Amazon Web Services, who host Parler’s website on their servers, are kicking Parler off their service. Parler was ready for this kind of attack from Big Tech, they expected this kind of bullying and planned to have other vendors host them. Other vendors got “calls” and pulled out, which further fuels entrepreneurs who are developing new hardware and software to get their products to market. It will take nine months to two years, but we will see a real sea change in our communications network availabilities. WEB 3.0 means to bring Decentralization to the World Wide Web and is being catapulted forward by efforts like the elimination of Parler. That’s why you see people of conscience coming together whom you never thought would agree on anything and why support for Parler is coming from “strange bedfellows.” John Matze, founder of Parler, said, “This is a battle against all of us. Liberals, conservatives, atheists, Christians, black, white, etc. They want to keep their monopoly over speech. They want us fighting. They don’t want us working together. They don’t want us working with each other, they want us hating one another.” Henrique Dias, writing for Modern Consensus, states, “Decentralization isn’t just an ideal—it’s a vision for the future of information technology and internet functionality. By decentralizing the web, we can create a freer, more innovative, and more democratic internet experience. It’s time to take the internet to the next level.” I will try to keep you on the cutting edge of the changes boiling up. Don’t get sucked in by the hot Monopoly Wars rhetoric coming your way. Wonderful people of conscience are at work…together! They are working to strengthen your autonomy and freedom. Love one another. Live and let live. Let’s walk the path between the great forces to a good place beyond. Vamos a ver! Happy New Year!
Paula Labrot

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January 22, 2021

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