During our seemingly never-ending election cycles, social networks like Facebook and Twitter have been cashing in through the sales of political ads, sometimes containing glaring factual errors.
Facebook’s case is made worse through leadership of a man with a history of making morally dubious decisions, and does not seem to understand the ramifications of what he has created, including failing to adequately protect user’s privacy, as illustrated by the actions of Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 election and during Brexit.
“facebook” by Thomas Iburg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Since these platforms are additionally privately owned, our modern political discourse is subject to their unilaterally imposed corporate policy.
As the owner of that platform, they are able to make these decisions. As a people aware of the ramifications of their choices, I do not believe we can afford to use their platforms any longer.
I believe the answer is in distributed social network platforms like Diaspora, Friendica and Mastodon.
The code for these platforms are Open Source. The code is free to use, and collaboration on development is encouraged. You can choose to join an existing established pod like mastodon.social, or you can set up your own pod on your own domain. Your pod can connect to other distributed instances, or you can just have a private space for your friends, family, or community group.
Since the data remains distributed, it is far more difficult to exploit for profitability. A given pod could choose to distribute advertisements to users, it is not possible to push them to all pods. The data of a given pod would be vulnerable to those who manage it, but it could not be exploited globally.
These platforms exist today, but could use some investment. I currently have an improved android client under development, and I’m starting to work with another developer on creating a cloud platform for spinning up Pods for personal, professional or community use.
What is really needed is people. At the end of the day what protects us and our democracy will be the loss of private power inherent to the existing centralized platforms.
We need you.