Democracy Earth discusses the tension between Facebook and the US government. Which went down with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees.
There are two new realms of power dominating politics in the 21st century: we have the Land, where governments that monopolize the law on territorial jurisdictions, and the Cloud where global corporations that monopolize user data and are able to track and target ideas via personalized advertising.
Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana issued the most memorable criticism of the hearings. His focus: a groan inducing agreement about the awfulness the (lack of) transparency of the social media company’s policies. “Your terms of service suck,” he complained. “The purpose of a user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end, not inform users of their rights.”
Even though Internet monopolies mouth well-rehearsed platitudes about the seriousness of their role as gatekeepers of online privacy, it cannot be forgotten that it is the nature of its centralized advertising platform business model that Facebook can choose to impersonate any of its 2 Billion registered users should it ever desire to — the flaw was a feature, first.
On the modern internet, privacy is illusory when using Facebook, Google or any web based service. It is in their corporate interest to gather as much information as possible to profile people in order to stay competitive in the attention market, and both companies filter information fed to users with algorithms accountable to no one but their own board. None of their services are really free: personal sovereignty is unwittingly given away to technology giants today in the same way the natives 500 years ago on the American continent traded away their way of life to European conquistadors.
While encryption is often considered a right protected under the First Amendment inasmuch as “code is speech”, in fact it is legislated the same as traditional weapons. Ever since Alan Turing built the first proto-computers to decrypt Nazi messages during World War II, the United States has included encryption in the Munitions List of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and related software and hardware manufacturers must deal with export restrictions.
The defensive nature of encryption indicates that it must be protected under the umbrella of the Second Amendment since it holds the same reasoning behind the “right to bear arms”, to wit: in an era where whistleblowers are revealing how the Deep State spies on citizens anywhere around the globe, encrypted information is the only realistic guarantee that anyone has to be protected from government and corporate abuses.
With Venezuelan citizens turning to bitcoin in record levels as a trusted replacement for the catastrophic monetary policies of a failed nation-state, the upcoming election raises a similar question with regards to the institutional possibilities offered by bitcoin and blockchains. A presidential contest with no real opponents is no competition for the only vote that matters for Venezuelans decimated by hyperinflation — that is, the cryptographically secure vote of confidence represented by bitcoin.
technology offers us a way forward, to remove ourselves from the manipulations of centralizing forces of the Land and Cloud, offering a third way — a way to free ourselves of the tyranny of likes and transform our vote into the self-sovereign power to create the kinds of institutions we need for the future, that will serve a digitally connected world.
In politics, the theory of The Third Way was birthed in the shadow of the question of the nation state’s continued viability. Today we might consider the bitcoin blockchain as the tool of the third way, the way that reconciles the powers of Land and Cloud within the self, something akin to a contract of a world of self-sovereigns with humanity itself — a Social Smart Contract.