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Take Back The Web

Dan Gilmor on the Facebook trending news dust-up and the meeting with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and conservatives today:

A delegation of right-wing activists will travel this week to Silicon Valley. They will be supplicants at the throne of Facebook, a platform so pervasive that it has unprecedented power to decide what’s news—a platform that could consume journalism itself in coming years. They will be begging Mark Zuckerberg for his indulgence. What they should be doing—what we all should be doing—is finding ways to reduce his company’s dominance.

The promise of the internet and personal technology was in its decentralization: one of the most profound advances for liberty in history. Yet at a rapid rate we’re seeing it re-centralized, as governments and corporations—often with users’ willing, if short-sighted, cooperation—are taking control in the center, creating choke points over what we say and how we can say it.


We—you and I—are part of the solution, too. Unless we recognize what’s at stake, and think about changing our own habits, we’re part of the problem. Unless we advocate for liberty, we’re helping the control freaks win. We’ll need to do things individually, and as members of communities at all levels, to change the trajectory.

I largely agree, but it’s 1) a question of degree and 2) a pendulum. Humankind has always experienced this tension between how much we tolerate centralized control versus the responsibility of how much freedom we want to assume. We often opt to let someone else take care of things, and in many cases including the news now, that someone else is a large platform like Facebook.

Gilmor is right to express concern, but having written about his aversion to the “centralizers” and changing our own habits, it’s funny that he writes some things at one of the new centralizers-on-the-block, Medium.

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