This week on my podcast, I read my latest Locus column, “Social Quitting, about the enshittification lifecycle of social media platforms.
But as Facebook and Twitter cemented their dominance, they steadily changed their services to capture more and more of the value that their users generated for them. At first, the companies shifted value from users to advertisers: engaging in more surveillance to enable finer-grained targeting and offering more intrusive forms of advertising that would fetch high prices from advertisers.
This enshittification was made possible by high switching costs. The vast communities who’d been brought in by network effects were so valuable that users couldn’t afford to quit, because that would mean giving up on important personal, professional, commercial, and romantic ties. And just to make sure that users didn’t sneak away, Facebook aggressively litigated against upstarts that made it possible to stay in touch with your friends without using its services. Twitter consistently whittled away at its API support, neutering it in ways that made it harder and harder to leave Twitter without giving up the value it gave you.
Earlier this month, I gave the afternoon keynote at the Internet Archive’s Decentralized Web Summit, and my talk was about how the people who founded the web with the idea of having an open, decentralized system ended up building a system that is increasingly monopolized by a few companies — and how we can prevent the same things from happening next time. more
In my latest Guardian column, I explain how UK prime minister David Cameron’s plan to opt the entire nation into a programme of Internet censorship is the worst of all worlds for kids and their parents. Cameron’s version of the Iranian “Halal Internet” can’t possibly filter out all the bad stuff, nor can it avoid falsely catching good stuff we want our kids to see (already the filters are blocking websites about sexual health and dealing with “porn addiction”). That means that our kids will still end up seeing stuff they shouldn’t, but that we parents won’t be prepared for it, thanks to the false sense of security we get from the filters. more
My latest Locus column is “It’s Time to Stop Talking About Copyright,” about the way that concentrating on “copyright” instead of “Internet policy” or “policy” causes us to miss the big picture:
The disconnection laws that the entertainment industry has bought for itself in the UK, New Zealand and France provide for removing whole households from the Internet on the strength of their copyright accusations. If the net were just cable TV, this might make sense, but for families all over the world, the net is work, socialization, health, education, access to tools and ideas, freedom of speech, assembly and the press, as well as the conduit to political and civic engagement.
There just isn’t such a thing as ‘‘copyright policy’’ anymore. Every modern copyright policy becomes Internet policy – policy that touches on every aspect of how we use the net.
And as we make the transition from a world where everything we do includes an online component to a world where everything we do requires an online component, it’s becoming the case that there’s no such thing as ‘‘Internet policy’’ – there’s just policy.