Society The Internet

Controlling the information platforms, controlling the information

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Musk’s control over Twitter, and now his attack on Substack, are examples of how this landscape is not only dangerous, but devastating. Control over Twitter and other social media hubs is just a proliferation of the same control over information and discourse methods that have existed all along, only now they are at the whims of individuals who can decide, on a moment’s notice, to effectively silence any critics or honest brokers standing in their way.

At every step the tech barons have shown both an eager willingness to work with authoritarians and a ceaseless desire to forward their own agendas through control of information. They censor and aid dictators and dictatorial regimes. They look the other way as dangerous actors spread disinformation designed to undermine elections, public health, and generally inform people. And now, Elon Musk’s roughshodding of Twitter has revealed what has lain at the heart of all of this all along: a system not only vulnerable to the whims of the wealthy and their agendas, but a system that designed explicitly to serve those whims.

It’s not just the Substack thing, it’s also marking NPR as government propaganda despite having full editorial freedom.

I am also concerned about LLMs concentrating the power of information in the hands of a few companies (one of which Musk has a stake in), moreso than they already are as referrers.

I’m thinking of (years ago) when Google told me they’d downrank my website because it wasn’t mobile friendly. When you get to decide where to source information, that gives you a lot of power over information and its presentation. Their YouTube algorithms already strongly control how videos are made, what they’re made about, and how they’re positioned as people try to game the algo. Then you have the development of algospeak to avoid saying words believed to be censored.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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