Social Media Socialism: People’s Tech and Decolonization for a Global Society in Crisis

83 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2020 Last revised: 2 Oct 2021

See all articles by Michael Kwet

Michael Kwet

Yale University - Information Society Project

Date Written: September 10, 2020

Abstract

Recent proposals by the neo-Brandeisian School of antitrust seek to ameliorate harms to society created by social media monopolies. While this initiative sounds great on paper, their solutions are inadequate, as they leave the proprietary, profit-seeking structure of social media networking intact. As a result, the neo-Brandeisian framework fails to cope with the harms of Big Social Media networks, such as privacy harms, user manipulation, the amplification of sensational content, the problems of online advertising, digital colonialism, and environmental degradation.

This Article argues that social media socialism based on a democratic commons should replace Big Social Media networks. It suggests an interlocking set of tools to decentralize social networks, including network interoperability, data portability, data decentralization, a fully Free and Open Source Software stack, and socialist legal solutions.

The guiding framework is based on a People’s Tech model that places ownership and control of social media directly into the hands of the global public. It proposes solutions to (1) force interoperability, data portability, data decentralization, and a Free and Open Source Software stack on social media providers; (2) put rules in place to prevent new business practices that concentrate wealth and power; (3) abolish or amend laws inconsistent with social media socialism; (4) pass strong privacy laws; (5) subsidize the social media commons through a Digital Tech New Deal; (6) form regulatory bodies to regulate social media; (7) formulate solutions jointly with the international community within a decolonial framework designed for global equality, reparations, and environmental sustainability.

The Article begins by outlining the harms produced by social media monopolies. Next, it provides a socialist critique of neo-Brandeisian philosophy and its proposals to fix social media. Following that, it explains how commons-based social media decentralization works -- including its history, philosophy, and core components -- using the Fediverse and LibreSocial as case examples. The final section outlines a People's Tech model for social media socialism and addresses possible challenges.

Suggested Citation

Kwet, Michael, Social Media Socialism: People’s Tech and Decolonization for a Global Society in Crisis (September 10, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3695356 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3695356

Michael Kwet (Contact Author)

Yale University - Information Society Project ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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