On "anti Facebook" platforms, in Europe and beyond
Quick! How would you feel about these events:
- a government official saying “As long as we rule, nobody will impose anything on our country”, or
- the Parliament Members of a country, proposing legislation that fines private companies, if they block their customers from doing something that is perfectly legal in that same country
If you ask me, there is nothing intrinsically wrong, or even just weird, in situation like those. Nothing at all.
At least in theory, the first attitude is exactly what people invented governments for. And the second is exactly why, in democracies at least, elected representatives exist.
When the wrong people say the right thing
Those statements are [edited] quotes from an article about the rise of “anti-Facebook platforms across Central Europe”, namely Albicla in Poland, and Hundub in Hungary. The problem discussed in the article is that both platforms are appealing to, and driven by, the far right of those countries, because they were explicitly created “to protect their users against the growing “censorship” of major social media companies like Facebook and Twitter”. Albicla also has the explicit support, and participation, of many members of the government and ruling party.
It’s the same everywhere, of course
The article itself explicitly notes that the general issue is not specific at all of Central Europe, when it writes that “[after] the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January and Donald Trump’s subsequent expulsion from Facebook and Twitter, [american] far-right activists began flocking to “free speech” platforms such as Parler and MeWe”. I myself remember several of my italian Facebook contacts writing on their walls, years ago, that they were moving to VKontacte for the same kind of reasons. And I too saw some of my US contacts running to Parler and Gab in January 2021.
Where, and WHAT is the real problem here?
The problem of Albicla, Hundub, Parler, MeWe, VKontacte… is not, of course, that they are “anti-Facebook”. Competition is good, isn’t it?
The first real problem here is that those platforms are deliberately “anti” the current Western concepts of democracy, tolerance and much more. Then there is the fact that, at least in the case of Albicla, they march hand in hand with their government, thus directly helping it to consolidate its power and stifle dissent (but the real problem is another, more on this in a moment).
Now, it only takes a few seconds of browsing posts like these to discover that I consider not just Facebook, but any social network working in the same way to be a really serious threat to democracy, and society in general. Neutralizing their toxic effectsis long overdue.
But this is not good. What we need is moving beyond “platforms”, with stuff like the percloud. Gab, Albicla, Facebook, Twitter.. will only make the problem worse. All of them will, regardless of which political agenda, or party, they push or tolerate.
The real problem, in fact, is that in the big picture it makes very little difference if “communities” like Albicla or Parler are separate companies, or just two more groups inside Facebook.
The real problem is that Albicla (and again, the same applies to any platform mentioned here) was deliberately built to “look and function just like Facebook“, with some of their _“terms and conditions… been directly copy-pasted from Facebook’s.
In other words, these are all platforms designed to isolate people from each other, and make it harder for them to change their minds, no matter what their initial ideas were. Because, of course, none of them allows adversarial interoperability.
All we are going to get from initiatives like those in Poland, Hungary, the US, wherever… is the addition of many more splintered realities to the ones that already exist. A proliferation of “Far Xes”, each unable to see all the others.