Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mafia loansharks

I’ve become super convicted about the large-scale ills of Facebook and Google.
I fully realize that a major reason the Bee (and my webcomic, for that matter) was able to blow up like it did was because of social media — Facebook in particular. This is just how it goes when you make things for the internet: you create, you post to social media, you hope people like it and it spreads. But the power that Facebook held over me as a content creator began to make me very uneasy.
True crime fascinates me, and this is a comparison that often comes to mind: to become a successful content creator you have to use Facebook, and using Facebook, especially if you’re a Christian and/or a conservative, is sort of like going to a mafia loan shark for $10,000. They’re happy to give it to you, just like Facebook will gladly give you the opportunity for your content to go viral on their massive platform. But then, if it does, they own you. You have to conform to their rules and their worldview, and jump through every hoop they put in front of you, if you want to remain a successful content creator. It’s just like a loan from a local mob guy: sure, now you’ve got $10,000 in your hand, but you’re going to pay a high price in return. You’re going to have to alter whatever needs to be altered — even your worldview — to accommodate Facebook. If you miss a payment or step out of line, you’re going to get a beating. And if they ever decide you’re too much trouble, they’ll just shoot you. Facebook has the power to kill publishers, and they do, not only based on publishing techniques, but based on worldview. Just think about that.
This takes us into the bigger and scarier picture, which is that Facebook and Google have a practical duopoly on information. The web is where everyone gets information about everything, and they literally control what information the world sees. I could write a million words on this topic, but I won’t. I cover it regularly on CDR, and the CDR Manifesto speaks on it. Suffice it to say, my worldview combined with my job description gives me a unique vantage point from which to view the current state of things. As a follower of Christ, I am primarily concerned with glorifying God, loving my neighbor, and spreading the gospel. I’ve thought about this deeply and carefully, and I think the centralization of the internet is one of the greatest threats to the spread of the gospel, and the well-being of mankind, that we face today. Maybe the single biggest threat. It is tyranny over information. It’s a handful of people who are hostile to the Christian message and the plight of the individual deciding what’s good and bad, true and false. It’s never been seen before on this scale. I am no conspiracy theorist; never have been. From where I sit, this danger is as clear as day.
All of this is to say nothing about the long-term ramifications of the massive collection of personal data, or the incalculable intrapersonal effects social media is having on us.
Because of all of this, I have founded the Christian Daily Reporter to be a daily source of news and information that lives outside the centralized tech-giant choke-hold, and I am in the process of becoming something of a conscientious objector to Facebook and Google (I’m sure I’ll have more updates on this process in the future). I have come to a place where I no longer feel morally OK being a part of the Facebook and Google machine, and because of their surveillance-capitalism business models, just existing on their platforms makes me a paying customer. How does CDR grow without social media? Not sure; I’m just focusing on making it so good that people want to come back every day.
(By the way, if you follow the news and have seen what’s been happening with Facebook and Google in the months since I launched CDR, hoo boy, you can imagine how justified I am feeling these days.)

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic piece.

    There are alternatives to Facebook and Google (e.g. DuckDuckGo, Disroot, ProtonMail). Although they haven't ever caught on, perhaps in part due to the power and influence of companies like Facebook and Google.

    I think it's good to have more competition. To have more companies competing to be the best search engine or whatever than to have a few companies that control everything. A diffusion of products and services to better dispel the possibility of tyranny. A separation and balance of powers rather than more centralized and concentrated entities holding all the high cards.