What the fediverse (does/n’t) solve
We can protect our communities from commodification, but it takes work
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, when we hold each other hostage because we can’t agree on when/whether to go, and if we do, where to go next. When the management of your community goes septic, it can be hard to leave, because you have to leave behind the people who matter to you if you do.
We’ve all been there: do you quit your writers’ circle because one guy is being a jerk? Do you stop going to a con because the concom tolerates a predator? Do you stop going to family Thanksgiving because your racist Facebook uncle keeps trying to pick a fight with you? Do you accompany your friends to dinner at a restaurant whose owners are major donors to politicians who want to deport you?
This collective action problem makes calamity of so long life. At the outer extreme, you have the families who stay put even as their governments slide into tyranny, risking imprisonment or even death, because they can’t bear to be parted from one another, and they all have different views of…