Tuesday, 20 October 2020

The New Pirates Of The Wild New West.

I saw this article about the now-famous Hunter Biden Affair, and I dunno about you but something about it niggled at me. Are your Spidey senses tingling yet? Because mine are off the bloody wall tingly as hell. 

First up - we already know Facebook and Twitter are dodgy as hell and that the former did what might be called quite unethical experiments a few years back where they quite meticulously and deliberately censored several groups of people's news feeds to skew the news they saw, and took notes on what those unfortunate people's reactions were for their precious algorithms. Lives were pretty much screwed over for the sake of science, Long Live FB Ultra.
We know that Twitter has been - questionable - in their treatment of certain people, and their 'reasons' for some of the decisions they made. These are large corporations and those actions affected (and still affect) literally billions of people. (I'll come back to this a bit later.)

What they've done in this affair (much as I dislike Murdoch's bastardisation of news sources into organs of propaganda, censoring them "for the good of the children" is as invasive, egregious, and objectionable as their inexplicable nipple aversion) is a direct act of propaganda in itself. Propaganda consists not only of implanting a desired message, it also includes the suppression of conflicting messages. Between them, these two corporations have done that quite ruthlessly and efficiently. 


Twitter seems to be more of a hands-on manipulator of their platform, in that a human seems to make the decision and then enacts the ban. (Sorry if I'm repeating anything that's already well known, I've never been too interested in articles written by people who have skin in the game, as in MSM sledging Social Media. Call me cynical.

Facebook on the other hand has algorithms. (But when the Zuck wants to censor a piece of news or promote another, there seem to be some 'god mode' flags that can be attached to articles.)

They're in effect 'cooking the books' 

 - sorry, couldn't resist the joke. (BTW I have two of these little eco pots and might whack an Eco Pot recipe or two up on TEdAMENU Tuckertime now that I'm blogging a bit more again.)

Anyone at any of those organisations that says they have no political agenda are lying. Of course they do. But perhaps they're not pushing the same kind of politics that we're used to... 


So what sort of politics are being played? Well, let's get back to that I'll come back to this a bit later from earlier. It's later now. 

India holds the dubious distinction of having the most FB users, at 250,000,000 - that's quarter of a billion users in India, out of 1.4bn population. That's 1 in 6 people there. 

Closely following India in sheer number is the USA, with 240,000,000 out of a population of 331,000,000, or 2 in 3 people being- on Facebook. 

The most populous country, China, has a population of 1.5bn but only 1.5 million Facebook users. (Officially. . .)

But if you stop analysing where the users come from, Facebook has as large a population as Pakistan. In other words, Facebook would be the fourth or fifth most populous country in the world. Here's a link to world populations by country, if you're interested.

Twitter users seem to make up about quarter of a billion, which is still close enough in numbers to almost be another USA, certainly more than Pakistan. 

And buried in the original article, 

about halfway down, are a few interesting points: 

Facebook limiting distribution is a bit like if a company that owned newspaper delivery trucks decided not to drive because it didn’t like a story. Does a truck company edit the newspaper? It does now, apparently.


"THAT THE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT of free speech is inapplicable to these questions goes without saying. That constitutional guarantee restricts the actions of governments, not private corporations such as Facebook and Twitter."

The first speaks to the inflated sense of self-importance that Mark Zuckerberg must feel, that his corporation isn't a publisher of news when it suits them, but is a publisher when they feel a need to censor news. 

The second quote is the more worrying to me. No single country's laws (that reference to the First Amendment, e.g.) seem to apply to them. They're fighting the Australian government to avoid paying for content. Why? Well, among other things, it would admit that they need - and use - news to keep their users engaged. That act of paying for news would make them a publisher. 

And once they were a publisher, they'd be forced to admit that the news articles they've been using for free, are worth money, and then nek minnit they'd be liable for all that news they used in the past. 

And on top of that they'd also have to admit that content they paid for is copyrighted and fair use policies applied. And that particular can of worms would just unravel them. They'd finally have to come down on the curator or publisher side of the fence.

Then there's Google. It's THE search engine for most of the 4.8 billion (!!!) daily Internet users out of the 7.8bn-strong world population and its business model is entirely predicated on curating the content of the entire online catalog. And they readily admit that they adjust their algorithms but are just not quite as definite as to why they make over half their decisions ... 

I'll only briefly mention Amazon / Ebay / other huge Internet properties that turn over hundreds of millions to billions of dollars every year because they're not so much propaganda-mongers as they are robber barons/plantation owners who take our income which by rights we should spend within our own countries and corporate structures. (Again, I'll get to them in more detail in a moment.)

Google too has strongly fought against the Aussie demands that they pay for the content that they currently need for their core business, probably for the same reasons as Facebook, that is, to retain deniability.

Not suggesting that social network, search, or media properties are pirating content - but they are textbook pirates, amassing fortunes at the expense of other traders, living outside the geographic system and having no allegiance to any country or domain. FSM (Ramen!) would have a field day with them. 

Of course, there are a few outliers. I use MeWe as my social network platform of choice for their enlightened view of anonymity (IF you want it - there's nothing stopping you from supplying your correct details - I certainly have my salient details correct but if I needed anonymity there's also nothing stopping me from fabricating an alt.) and I use Telegram as my chat/messaging app of choice. 

There are dozens of properties out there that offer the same features (give or take - they ARE smaller so they need more support before they can become stronger contenders) as the big ones at the top - DuckDuckGo is a fine search engine that doesn't track or target you, Brave web browser is as full-featured as Chrome but without phoning Google every time you click a link or type a word. Libre Office is a very competent alternative to Microsoft Office and Google Docs. 

What Does That Mean, Captain Bligh?

The Internet HAS become the "Wild West" that was predicted by pundits two decades ago. The other Wild West was in what was then a new country to European people. Pioneers DID carve out a variety of empires in that earlier Wild West. New ways of doing things came about, and it wasn't all for the better.

Now we're providing a very large income to these corporations by way of their advertising fees that they charge for the privilege, by way of passively allowing their version of the news to be the only one to reach us, and by giving them our data to use to even further increase their income.

We buy goods promoted and advertised to us by those media giants over and above perfectly good locally-produced variants. In the process we're facilitating a huge transfer of wealth from our locale, our country, and smaller competing businesses - straight to the pockets of people like Jeff Bezos - a new 'trader baron' if you will, who's set up his shops all along the Wild Wild Internet Trail and as entrepreneurs bring him goods to sell, makes copies and sells them cheaper in direct competition until the original seller goes bankrupt.

Who also - and now famously - pulled out of building a new HQ because, among other things, the reduction in taxes he was offered (and which in effect gave an already wealthy and privileged company an even more unfair edge over those competitors) were so strongly defended against and defeated. In effect he was saying "no-one here likes me and they want me to pay my fair share of taxes so I'll find another place that I can bend over."

It's really imperative that we as a whole population limit these new robber barons and plantation owners before we become their victims, serfs, and slaves. And I'm not even kidding - when America was colonised - when America's "Wild Wild West" played out and people carved out new niches, new opportunities, and new fortunes (Gee doesn't that sound familiar all of a sudden?) the one group that suffered was the native Americans. 

Remember them? The American natives suffered diseases that ravaged them, powerful people with hitherto unknown advantages (New TECHNOLOGY such as firearms and explosives - there, does THAT throw my concern into sharper focus?) that mercilessly decimated and exterminated them, deprived them of their lands and resources, and has left only a shell of the culture that existed before they came.

Now WE'RE the native Earthers, and the Internet properties are the ones seeking to carve out empires. Grab those trade beads while you can!

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