As I'm sure some of you are aware, I have recently abandoned my Twitter account. A few years prior I deleted my Facebook account. The reasons for these decisions are complicated and since people ask me why on a semi-regular basis I have decided to document them here. Before continuing, I suggest you read my original post on why I deleted my Facebook account as I will not reiterate the reasoning behind that decision in this post.
Okay, assuming you read my previous post you now know that I left Facebook in an effort to bolster my personal privacy. Transitioning the bulk of my social media activity to Twitter proved to be an effective hedge against my privacy concerns with Facebook for the reasons explained within that post. However since moving to Twitter, a new problem began to rear it's ugly head. Sadly this problem is not limited to Twitter and has seemingly emerged on Facebook as well. The problem I'm referring to of course is censorship. Censorship related activities became very obvious on both Facebook and Twitter during the 2016 US Election.
But the 2016 US Election is over, right? While the answer to that might vary based on who you ask, but generally yeah, its considered to be over. Nevertheless, this disturbing trend of censorship has continued to grow, especially on Twitter in particular. That of course led to this which then culminated in this. I can already hear you saying, "But Jay - they apologized and said it was a mistake which has since been rectified!" Let me stop you there. This chain of events is not an accident. The users of Twitter will almost certainly be subjected to more situations resembling the one described in the previous link. That's because the Twitter can't engage in censorship and champion free speech at the same time. This approach is a literal example of the old adage, "Trying to eat your cake and have it too". They simply can't succeed. This of course means that collateral damage is all but guaranteed.
So why do I care? I'm not bisexual. I'm not a victim here. Correction: I am a victim here. I originally supported Bernie in the 2016 US Election and Twitter blatantly censored any and every trending hashtag that didn't favor Hillary Clinton. Though I ultimately chose to slither into a voting booth and punch the ticket for Hillary, I believe the stench of corruption associated with her is real and much of the reporting regarding the leaked emails, the campaigns corruption of the DNC and her overall "drunk with power" demeanor, constitute legitimate subjects that deserve to be examined and shared with all those who care to listen. Twitter clearly disagreed.
While my opinions and feelings on Democracy are decidedly mixed, I believe that a successful Democracy absolutely requires an informed and educated populace to be at its foundation. We don't have that in this country anymore. While some may argue that fake news is the crux of the problem here, I believe the issue revolves more around siloing than anything. This was more apparent on Facebook than Twitter as the latter is more of a public platform in which most of the content is publicly accessible. Nevertheless the best hedge against Fake News is arguably accessibility. Twitter's model is better than Facebook's model in this respect because things are less cloistered. Anybody can jump into a normal conversation and interject. To me being a part of a social network comes with an implied social responsibility. If somebody is spreading Fake News and you recognize it, you should call it out and provide supporting information to back up your claims.
The problem with censorship on social networks is simple. It is abdication of responsibility on the part of the social network itself. This is very much the case given how it is implemented and enforced within Twitter and Facebook. The network itself should be left to decide these issues. Racists ought to be allowed to make the case that their race is superior. Democrats ought to be allowed to claim that misogyny ultimately led to Hillary's loss in 2016. Republicans ought to be allowed to parrot the idea that Trump is one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen. All three are easily disprovable and dangerously deluded, but unless we can logically dissect and argue against these points in a sizable public forum, these opinions will flourish. Driving stupidity underground is never going to be answer. People must be given the freedom to speak their minds, no matter how deranged the thought might be.
If we can't have these discussions on the two biggest social networks in the world, where can we have them? Back in the day we could rely upon the op-ed section of the local paper, so why not fall back to that? Hell, I haven't received the local paper for well over a decade. Frankly I don't know anybody under the age of 50 who actually receives a paper anymore. As a forum for discussion that option is not only dead, but largely buried. How about local news? In my experience local news is all about pushing hype, fear and drama. To be blunt: it generally lacks the mental fortitude to honestly address anything resembling the larger and more important issues.
So therein lies the problem. The Internet and social networks like Facebook and Twitter were supposed to drag us kicking and screaming into a new age of enlightenment only we seem to be regressing instead. So what's the answer? How do we fix this? For me, the answer is a decentralized social network like Mastodon.
This approach to social networking gives us the best of all worlds. For starters its possible for anybody to setup their own Mastodon server. The Mastodon server network is federated which means that server A can see content being posted on server B, C or D. However the individual server operators get to decide what kind of content they allow. Don't like what your server operator is doing with content? Find a different server or better yet, setup your own. This approach to social networking more closely resembles the op-ed approach of old except that instead of being limited based on your geographical location, you are now only limited based on upon the server you pick as your home.
Now this approach isn't perfect. The risk of siloing is still very real here. But at least on Mastodon that's a choice left in our own hands rather than in the hands of some faceless corporate entity who likely doesn't care what your particular concerns are. Ultimately when faced with the question of Democracy and its future, citizens must make their own choices. Otherwise the actual fate of the system matters little as the power of choice has already been usurped.
So what are you waiting for? Come follow me on Mastodon and lets make the world a better place by reclaiming our right to socially self-regulate in the face of corporate interference.