What the fediverse (does/n’t) solve

We can protect our communities from commodification, but it takes work

Cory Doctorow
17 min readDec 23, 2022


Moses confronting the Pharaoh, demanding that he release the Hebrews. Pharaoh’s face has been replaced with Elon Musk’s. Moses holds a Twitter logo in his outstretched hand. Moses’s head has been replaced with the head of Tusky, the Mastodon mascot. The faces embossed in the columns of Pharaoh’s audience hall have been replaced with the menacing red eye of HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The wall over Pharaoh’s head has been replaced with a Matrix ‘code waterfall’ effect. Image: Cryteria (

No matter how benevolent a dictatorship is, it’s still a dictatorship, and subject to the dictator’s whims. We must demand that the owners and leaders of tech platforms be fair and good — but we must also be prepared for them to fail at this, sometimes catastrophically.

That is, even if you trust Tim Cook to decide what apps you are and aren’t allowed to install — including whether you are allowed to install apps that block Apple’s own extensive, nonconsensual, continuous commercial surveillance of its customers — you should also be prepared for Cook to get hit by a bus and replaced by some alt-right dingleberry.

What happens next is a matter of technology and law. It’s a matter of whether you have to give up your media and your apps and your data to escape the no-longer-benevolent dictatorship. It depends on whether the technology is designed to let you move those things, and whether the law protects you from tech companies, or whether it protects tech companies from you, by criminalizing jailbreaking, reverse engineering, scraping, etc.

As thorny as this is, it’s even harder when we’re talking about social media, because it’s social. Sociability adds a new and pernicious switching cost…