Liberty on Life Support… is a headline we hope to never write, but some of it is under threat, particularly freedom of speech on the internet.
Condé Nast is a media giant that owns Wired, Ars Technica, New Yorker, GQ, Vanity Fair and far too many others, including Reddit, which they bought in 2006, barely one year after its founding.
Condé Nast in turn is owned by Advance Publications, with countless of mainly papers and media sites, but also TV stations, owned by the Newhouse family.
“He quietly shaped fashion and popular culture over lunches in the Condé Nast cafeteria with the editors in his charge,” the New York Times says of the late Samuel I. Newhouse.
The empire now has passed to Steven Newhouse, who for a very wealthy man and for being such a key media figure, lacks even a wikipedia page.
With just one company-wide, broad, and general statements memo, one would think, Newhouse could unleash a media blitz, traversing through different papers, from the New Yorker to Wired. So portraying an impression of “consensus” on whatever matter.
Now that blitz could traverse Reddit too, a site where the admin changed a user’s comment, admitted to it, and faced no consequence whatever, neither in the media nor within Reddit itself.
It is indeed true not all media is owned by one man. There are other media entities. But the owners of almost all mainstream media have in common the fact they are very rich billionaires.
We saw fake consensus created most pronouncedly in an incredibly overt way during the 2016 elections. However, with the internet being so new, they failed to control the flow of information.
Ordinary people became media entities themselves. Platforms like Youtube, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and others, allowed them to have the same visibility, if not more visibility, than the controlled mainstream media.
No one can reasonably think they will allow that to continue. The first crack, therefore, has been opened in holding platforms responsible for user content where it concerns sex trafficking.
That means platforms now have to police what users say or do, with reddit going far beyond sex trafficking yesterday to ban a number of communities, including one where individuals traded rare (or not shop buyable) beer.
That’s probably just the first step in limiting free speech under the excuse that political opinions are nothing but Russian bots. With the “consensus” media trying to make us believe that millions of Americans voted for Trump not because of what he said or because of his policies, but because of bots.
In that suggestion they betray their own belief that they think we can easily be manipulated through the media, and were it not for these pesky “bots,” we would have fallen in line and would have voted for what they ordered, Hillary, a woman who after a century in politics has not one achievement to her name.
In line with that belief they most probably want to get rid of these “bots,” or more correctly called: freedom of speech. So that they alone can tell us what to think and what information we should know, rather than we all publicly and openly discuss matters and share information in public commons like Reddit, like Twitter and like Facebook.
If social media falls to such “consensus” where only billionaire’s mouthpieces with their own agendas tell us what is and what isn’t, then democracy and freedom would be greatly affected.
For let’s not forget, although we were young back then it was still obvious a fake media consensus was created around the Iraq War. With social media non-existent at the time, the millions that marched were unable to affect much change. We’d think with this new freedom space things would be different.
But we have to keep that freedom space and we have to ensure it does remain free rather than a biased mouthpiece like much of the mainstream media can be at times.
The problem currently is that there is no real alternative. There are things like Akasha in development, but there might be a tendency in this space to monetize every aspect, or what we might call trying to experiment with too many things at once.
When really what is needed is a decentralized commons like reddit with smart algorithmic moderation and if there is to be a monetary aspect then it can be limited as reward for excellent content rather than incorporated in every aspect.
That said, you never know what works until you try, so experimentation can only be good. As such, it might be time to build the many decentralized commons with their own take and allow the many to freely decide which one works best.
Because if we do not now in a time of general freedom, we might be unable to do much if things go south. And as history has shown us, unless we keep eternally vigilant, things tend to go south now and then.