The big corporations that own online platforms are weaponising their gift of ‘free’ services at the concealed cost of our freedom and privacy. But a silent army of online rebels is developing the technology to help good triumph over evil.
Every time we log onto Facebook, Instagram, Google or Twitter, we relinquish our right to privacy. We trade our data in exchange for ‘free’ services without understanding the hidden price we pay for the bargain. But like a Grimm’s fairy tale turned into reality, the temptation of shiny gifts is being used as a means of coercion – and is concealing a more ominous intent beneath its surface. After all, nothing comes for free.
The internet was intended to be a space of open knowledge, free speech and community. However, the vested interests of big business dominate the platforms we use, which steal and exploit our data. An evil army of corporate bots harvest our data, monetise it for private gain, drown us in advertising, intentionally misleading information, and use tailored content to drive specific agendas by skewing statistics and dressing fiction up as fact. This is not what the internet was meant to be like.
Breaking the Spell
While we are all familiar with the concept ‘if you’re not paying, then you’re the product’, it can still be hard to understand what measures to take to stop ourselves from becoming manipulated commodities. This is especially true when multi-billion-dollar technology companies are ambushing us on major digital platforms.
But while the tech giants pursue their profit-driven objectives, a hidden community of tech-minded rebels are taking measures to enable us to break free from our online puppet masters. Enter the open-source cooperativistas, who have seen an alternative future and still subscribe to a utopian vision for the web. These heroes are using open-source code and co-owned hardware to free society from our enchantment, allowing us to regain our online autonomy.
Good triumphs over evil
This silent army of open-source enthusiasts is more significant than you might realise; they are now merging in collaborations and federations to provide services that were previously only possible with multi-million-pound start-up funds. Open-source software used to suffer from usability issues, but as time has passed, the contributors that help develop the code are catching up with big corporations.
Take meet. Coop, for example, is an international collaboration between a range of tech co-ops and designers that provides a surveillance-free alternative to Zoom. Or Open Web Systems, a UK-Sweden partnership which provides a military-grade end-to-end encrypted alternative to Gmail and Google Drive. Both of these cooperative ventures use open source code, powered by 100% renewable energy, to provide services which respect their users’ rights to privacy.
These projects are the forerunners of a new wave of data – and platform – ownership developing on the internet. There are hundreds and thousands of other initiatives bubbling away in the backwaters of open-source tech. If Wikipedia has taught us anything, these collaborative efforts are not to be under-estimated. By supporting these joint endeavours, and the hidden heroes fighting for our freedom, the internet may still achieve its utopian happily ever after.
Credit: Open Web Systems and Daredevil
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