I recently received an email from activists at ActionStation.org.nz, announcing the release of their new report about the state of the internet

“Our lives online are now dominated by a handful of tech giants, and their products are increasingly being used to hurt people and spread misinformation and hate. It’s time to do something about it. Today we are launching The People’s Report on Online Hate, Harassment and Abuse. It is the result of lots of thinking, reading, research, and listening to others’ experiences on the internet. In it we argue the tech giants who have come to dominate our lives online have failed to stop their products from damaging individuals and our wider democracy.”

Here’s my response to that email.

Kia ora ActionStation crew

Have you read the dystopian science fiction novel ‘1984′? Do you remember the part where George Orwell writes:

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

You say you’ve taken a serious look at what’s happening to the internet. Yet what you’re worried about is not surveillance capitalism, the increasing power of state-corporate entities to monitor and control what we can say and see online, and manipulate what we believe about the past and the present. Instead, you say you’re worried that they’re not using that power enough?!?

I’m currently living in China, where the internet is under total state-corporate control. Nobody here is allowed to have private or free conversations online. The Chinese state uses its Great Firewall to make sure that its population can only access internet services under its control, and it uses that control to monitor every aspect of their lives, and prevent any dissenting views being openly expressed online. If you think this is good for the rights of women, or queers, or indigenous people, or immigrants, you’re dead wrong.

The Harmful Digital Censorship Act moved Aotearoa a step towards this same kind of anti-democratic technocracy. We don’t need it to be strengthened. We needs it to be repealed, and replaced with amendments to relevant laws against libel, harassment, stalking, and so on, to make sure they are fit for purpose in the digital age. Amendments that carefully constrain the powers of the state, and corporations, to control what citizens say and see online.

We especially don’t need tech corporations policing online discourse on our behalf. We need digital tools that take that power and responsibility out of their hands, and empower users to create respectful online communities and address the social problems caused by trolls, shills, and corporate PR tactics. Ideally, that means moving our communities off corporate-controlled servers completely, and replacing monocultures like FarceBook and Twitter with federated social networks, connecting ‘digital cafes’ owned and controlled by the communities that use them.

In summary, we agree that the corporate tech giants are a problem. But we need to have some serious discussions about the true nature of that problem, and come up with solutions that fix it, instead of making it worse.

He mihi nui

Strypey

Filed March 1st, 2019 under independent media

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