Continuing my few-parts "series" on news of the past three weeks or so.
Now I'd like to gripe about Parler being shut down. And once again before I wade into this, yes I am anti-Trump or rather anti-Trumpism. And yes I currently vote Democrat and in particular I voted for Biden. But if your mind blows up that I can be anti-Trumpism yet still hate CNN and the oppression of free speech like a Trumper might, then you probably aren't intelligent enough for this blog. Or, I'm too schizophrenic to be maintaining one. Pick your conclusion.
Anyway. When you get right down to it it's not so much scary that Parler was shut down as a service but rather its hosting was shut down (which of course shuts it down as a service). For years and years and I have espoused the merit of privately hosting your blogs and web expressions on your own hosted services on the theory that you can't be moderated away in a deplatform event. But here we are in 2021 and that is exactly what happened to thousands of noisy if not also delusional Parler users.
To catch you up, Parler didn't effectively moderate the dangerous sounding people, so its host, Amazon, did it for them in one fell swoop. Thousands of people who for sure consisted of some plotting to storm the Capitol were evaoprated, but so were harmless kooks enjoying their life preaching about elves living in their basement, or reasonable people who just wanted to duck the destructive and diminishing effect of commercialism on their rants. Even I had an account in which I dabbled with to carry on my (perfectly valid) diatrabes against the media and the demise of the open World Wide Web. As dangerous as it was, Parler represented freedom -- sort of.
Not Truly Free But More Fun
It turns out that Parler only represented freedom in the same way that one neighborhood garage for teenage friends to hang out in is more free than another. But it still wasn't free. The Parler dad was just cooler than the Twitter dad. Eventually a rule could be broken and everyone sent home. Or into the woods.
I cannot keep saying this enough. The first step to real online freedom is reclaiming in large part what the early web was. Millions of HTML web pages by people speaking and ranting about all kinds of topics. Some poorly and loosely, but many with talent and a sense of presentation. Back then these millions and millions of web pages were mansions unto themselves, and bringing down one, if it had to be rightly or wrongly targeted, did not bring down them all.
The topics were often redundant, sure. But while talking about the same general concepts of UFOs or the town ordinance on how far to keep your trash cans away from the curb might cluster around the same angle, the invidual voices of each author made each new encounter an enriching and often rewarding consumption.
A fair search engine was supposed to tie all these web pages together to your sense of curiosity, but alas, search became a monetized thing. Now, the findable answer is tied more to how much SEO an author has invested in and how more by the rules of commerce they abide by. If your knowledge is not packaged for financial return upon its discovery, your knowledge will not be noticed.
But, a renewed interest in creating personal web pages would still work. Twitter or Parler could be replaced by interlinks (remember "web rings" -- something like that but not quite so flashy), and of course RSS, which I believe went away because Google was hell-bent on destroying on the profitless intimate web.
As Doomed As Anything I'd Write
The final irony of Parler is that it was probably doomed anyway. It billed itself as an enterprise solution of sorts but in reality (and if you understood how buggy it was, you sort of guessed) it was amateur coding that I put "slightly" above my own in terms of skill set. This is to say, it was apparently a security nightmare that somehow even failed to strip geo-location metadata from the pictures you might have uploaded.
Its producer was probably relieved to have a "cover of principle" to maybe die under forever, but the fact is that it would have been sued out of existence before long, once the freedom privacy-loving population learned that every picture posted was a map to their house.
As of this writing, Parler is back online, but I am sure with the challenge of reworking its reckless bubble-gum-glued-together gears.
More power to'em if their team can do it. I mean, if they are willing to not home-school government revolts. But I would hope that a fraction of people with Parler fever would simply look into a cheap shared hosting account and feel free to unite with others doing the same. The open WWW is your resilience and if you claim it to be, is your resistance.
These "President Trump is being censored in social media" milestones always put me in the awkward position of having to explain how I can concurrently reject Trump's presidency while going nuts whenever social media platforms take measures to curb him. As per the current action of Twitter suspending his account.
The answer of course is that the actions taken against Trump really have nothing to do with Trump. It has more to do with my advocacy of an open web, and, a basic understanding that Facebook and Twitter are really just capitalism's answer to China's Great Firewall. No government, no corporation lobby, and certainly no government comprised of corporation lobbies, is ever going to give the power of worldwide broadcast to any wahoo that wants to operate a broadcast station unless there was absolute control over them first. One of the only ways to do that effectively is to create a chokepoint.
China freely turned its entire internet infrastructure into a chokepoint. Every internet user in China is easily surveilled, and content from elsewhere around the world is easily blocked, all from a (relatively) central control position. A percentage of Chinese citizens that go the extra distance to beat those controls through proxies and the like is small so the censorship effort is still effective.
In our culture, the same control is absolutely necessary (speaking as a hypothetical stakeholder of the status quo I mean) but the tact, as not to offend democratic narratives, is more delicate and far more decentralized.
To achieve this, a few simple ingredients along with a few simple rules about how they interact, are required. Left to their own devices these ingredients and rules self-evolve into (a superpower's requirement of) censorship and chill. Aside from the possibility that a few stupidhead 'socialists' can always complain about lack of regulation, there is no-body to blame.
One ingredient, and I can probably cite quite a few, is the commodification of curiosity and a taxing of human being's thirst for knowledge and understanding. In other words, search. The original search engines assumed that the point of their existence was to facilitate a breathlessly curious world -- not to monetize.
It didn't take long for Google and Google's early competition to realize that every search action was a goldmine and capitalist rules and zero ideas of counterweight regulations allowed it to grow into the behemoth it is now.
As Google proved it can dominate (as Microsoft proved it can dominate, as Twitter proved it can dominate, as Facebook proved it can dominate), the "government" of course forged its internal "off-book" relationships with each. Government regulation, action or inaction, came to exclusively favor these icons of what we now deem "Big Tech". For these big tech companies they reign supreme and get to keep making money. For the government, they get their chokepoints.
It doesn't take too much imagination to figure the sort of alliance this makes for, but if you need the picture, Snowden seems to have dumped them for you.
Twitter's decision acts specifically in response to what happened at the nation's Capitol. What happened there is a topic in its own right and I have ways of seeing how an out-of-control right-wing engineered it, and I have theories of how the left-wing engineered it. But I promise you this my dear reader, Trump was more part the mob than its leader.
You can read Twitter's blog posting on its reasoning for banning Trump's account, but as far as I'm concerned it's just a rationalization of tampering with something as sacred as free speech by stretching out the impact of a lot of subjective conclusions.
The real arguments have nothing to do with Trump's application of a social media platform, so Twitter and Facebook are truly creating their own relevance. Note how the debate itself solidifies themselves as "the internet" while the "real internet" is thus dissipated further without notice.
Trump, an apolitical sentient some time ago, simply picked up his inclination to run for president. Seeking the easiest path, he tuned into AM-right-wing radio, discovered an easy herd ripe for exploitation, and set out to do just that. It's that simple people. The mass media mediums that beget Trump were traditional radio and television. FCC stuff.
Point of fact, open expression to the widest gulf prevented this demigod from being re-elected. Can you even begin to imagine what a president like this one, traditionally bound to mere press releases and press conferences, might have done in the "usually" invisible political plane where backdeals and shady dynamics lurch? Fuck that. We needed to see this man's tweets.
I never went on to develop web pages or to code at professional grade levels, but for as long as the web has been a thing I have always developed web pages and coded. Here are two videos (you'll need to full-screen these bitches to see them completely) showing off some work I did for the computer support department that I worked for from the mid-90s to about 2006.
Ye Olde Computer Support Website Nostalgia 1 (Watch full-screen).
Ye Olde Computer Support Website Nostalgia 2 (Watch full screen).
Back then formal lines between technical roles were not as defined or regulated, or, at least weren't for our small shop, yet. A system administrator might just as easily be called on to install MS Office on a user's PC, as they might to add a printer to a server -- and vice versa. Roles solidified in my 5 or 6 years there, but early on, anything was on the table in your role as a "PC tech".
If you could log into it, you were the dude doing it.
Under this liberal arrangement I at some point picked up the role as webmaster of the departmental website. It was a natural for me because it did in fact involve coding (HTML and the old "Cold Fusion", AKA, the language of MySpace - fun fact), and it allowed me to craft in departmental service structure directly to the interface that people would be using to call upon it. The website, to the extent I had control, was in effect support policy and procedure. For years this worked out well.
I was able to take this trip down memory lane using a weird archive site I had not heard of before called oldweb.today .
Looking at this today it's stunning how static my web skills have stayed. You'll notice that my preference for the clean uncluttered mechanical social path between the various pages is the same you'll find, say, here at my very blog. I have always preferred that a website look and behave like a document.
The world wide web might have been a way to share all kinds of information in a useful way that ecompassed the input of multiple presenters for every topic imaginable, sometimes for the same topic many times over.
Malcolm Gladwell effectively predicts the 2020 web in 2002.
It was imagined by the still-living web founder as something that would be an indexed resource of a million perspectives, all able to interlink and evolve in infinite digital interplay.
And then, commercialism.
Now web page/site development can only be justified by the amount of money it might procure its producers. Web pages that don't or can't take on the architecture of e-commerce equate to content that might be better moved to evolving social media platforms such as Facebook. Places where any universal search mechanism breaks down.
Malcolm Gladwell made the prediction above in 2002 that seems to hold up well in the 2020 web.
I decided to click the little exclamation point for "More Website Information" that Facebook now includes with most feed posts, next to one of my own recent posts.
In the event you actually wonder if Hillary runs a pedophile ring, click the exclamation point.
The idea of this new information system is so that Facebook can give the average clicker an idea of a website's validity and integrity, a system largely developed in wake of attempts by foreign state competitors attempting to influence the outcome of elections by taking advantage our nation's low barrier information exchange systems (read: the web, social media). You may recognize that effort covered in the mainstream media as "Russian Interference".
Why Facebook thinks that people who are actually brain-numb enough to believe Hillary Clinton runs a pedophila ring in the basement of pizza parlors would be inquisitive enough to try and understand the integrity of a given source publishing that information is beyond me. People who "believe" and share that type of information are more than likely doing it out of personal satire, not because they actually believe it.
I actually think I do know: Social media giants and the mainstream media both need you to believe that people are that stupid because it then permits them to introduce yet more controls and more instruments to track human inquisitiveness, while maybe driving a political or social agenda in the process. Instruments such as the button under discussion that allows you to review "more information" about a given post, for example.
When I clicked on the one for my post, linking back to my website, I chuckled over the clinical assessment at first. But gaffed when I saw this:
Dwghosting doesn't have a Facebook page, oh no!
Facebook, in the authorative presentation of a risk assessment agent, was pointing out that my hosting company, Dave the Web Guy Innovations, does not have a Facebook page. The implication being that my content potentially threatens western democracy.
Well I guess as owner operator of Dave the Web Guy Innovations and its functional subsidary Dave the Web Guy Hosting, I better start one up! Get it going. Get my presence branded and restore Facebook's version of "trust it" about me, to the world.
If I really want to stand apart, to really show my authentic export to the world, I best also buy up some ad impressions and what not. After all, if I'm not buying ad space, maybe I'm just a con going through the trouble to make a Facebook page to beat this incriminating designation as a "non-Facebook-page" owner. Oh no! Facebook: Shutup and take my money! Vindicate me! Approve me!
So basically, Facebook, as part of its undeclared strategy to replace the World Wide Web with its own monetizing version of it, is casting fear and distrust of any digital stage built outside it.