Too much of a threat for facebook...

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dark_ether's picture
dark_ether
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Dec 16 2018 08:02
Too much of a threat for facebook...

Apologies to the many fans I had as the main contributor to the Bristol Anarchist Federation facbeook page, but it is no more. It violated the nebulous and randomly enforced community standards (or got on the nerves on the wrong person or people), and was deleted permanently with out even the usual option to appeal. Others who have been in this situation have said that attempts to recreate similar pages (even with differing names or a different admin team) to deleted ones have seen them pretty quickly pulled from the site.

It's got me thinking about social media more in general, and the fact it seems like perhaps it is coming to an end in terms of its use at getting ideas out to the wider class, It's not dead for this purpose yet, but its certainly heading in that direction.

Site algorithms make sure we mostly only see and hear what we already agree with,
Corporate news outlets (and far right outlets with a lot of finance) have overtaken the plucky anarchist upstarts when it comes to getting noticed 'organically',
The same institutions can simply spend their way to being noticed above us, even when they lack the skills,
Major platforms, such as facebook, paypal, twitter, and youtube, have shown and increasing willingness to close the accounts of 'extremists on both sides' to fulfil an advertiser and government friendly liberal ideal,
There will certainly be more government pressure for Facebook to curb potential dissent after five weeks of riots in France largely spread by social media (much as there was pressure on blackberry whose messenger helped spread rioting in the UK back in 2011).

That said, social media does provide a useful space for the creation of communities that would otherwise be too marginalised to exist outside of our biggest cities. Though, with the american 'anti sex' laws many of these communities (queer, trans and sex worker especially) are already being forced out.

Social media also still a powerful tool when it comes to getting people to events (Bristol Afed is going to have to do some re-thinking about how we advertise, as many of our discussion or protest attendees spot things on facebook). Some events go viral and get 200 people when you'd normally only muster 20, some go really viral and you burn paris to the ground. Some just make sure to remind the couple of dozen people who like your book group that it is happening this thursday and they should come along.

I mean, we all know facebook/twitter/youtube/etc are terrible, but we moved to them and used them for the same reason as most - everyone else was there. There was little point sticking to our own corners of the internet without attempting to spread the message via social media, those sites we still have get much of their trafic driven to them by social media. As the Schnews team said back in 2014 about the decline of their website and Indymedia: facebook killed the internet star. https://corporatewatch.org/facebook-killed-the-internet-star-reflections...

Its a big loss in terms of what the internet could be, was, and to a less extent is. More people than ever use the internet, but fewer than ever stray from the bright lights and advertising of the corporate sites, and when they do its only to briefly read one page before going back to the never ending feed of new information , carefully curated ofc.

We need to be thinking seriously though, what will we do when social media shuts us out? Sure, our own groups, and maybe even wider communities, can communicate online, but only the most dedicated will stumble in to them without the say-so of facebook. We've had it alright for awhile, social media was an almost universally tollerent place, after all they needed our membership and our content (that being the products they sell to advertisers). Maybe they feel more secure now, that they can bend a little to the pressure of those advertisers (and government censorship), to cut off the less 'desirable' aspects. Not entirely of course, but whilst they can delete all our pages, they wouldn't even need to. Simply ensure that for all the 'view first' 'favourite' options, that non-advertiser friendly content (like anti-capitalism) just doesn't show up that often, and is largely kept in a non-threatening form, much as it is in the pages of VICE.

Can we go backwards? Could indymedia ever work in 2020 (without a facebook page!) Will we rekindle the habit of text-outs for protests, and actually reading through our mailing list inboxes? Will everyone get sick of facebooks shit, and jump ship to one of the constant stream of so far failed 'non corporate alternatives'? Are there applications and tools that will be far safer from the reach of the censors?

Or will we simply have to go back to flyers and flyposters, stickers and graffitti, looking at the internet as much the same way we do the TV now. Sure we can sometimes get a foot in the door and say some good stuff, but mostly its a tool for the elites, not the rebels.

dark_ether's picture
dark_ether
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Dec 16 2018 08:38

I would say it's not ALL doom and gloom.

The likes of 'its going down', and the more-active than ever online presence of Freedom (who are putting in a lot of effort to draw in sources from around the web), are still getting content out (though I would imagine social media still plays a big role in this). perhaps mirroring or syndicating articles is a way to spread them without the corps, though if our movement ever becomes hegemonic I feel we'll have lost something!

Libcoms working class history project goes from strength to strength, and by reporting what was potentially will continue to slip through the net of the social media censors better than many.

Likewise radical podcasts are thriving, and whilst there are 'big players' in distribution there is nothing like the same monopoly that youtube holds on video streaming or twitter on instant news.

radicalgraffiti
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Dec 16 2018 10:57

it may be time to start moving to federated social media like mastodon

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
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Dec 16 2018 13:05

Sorry to divert from the substance of your posts, but...

Quote:
fans

Really???

dark_ether's picture
dark_ether
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Dec 16 2018 14:48
Quote:
Really???

tongue in cheek init, to quote Abraham Lincoln 'dont take everything you read on the internet seriously'.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
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Dec 16 2018 15:07
dark_ether wrote:
Quote:
Really???

tongue in cheek init, to quote Abraham Lincoln 'dont take everything you read on the internet seriously'.

Phew! I am greatly relieved!!!

jondwhite's picture
jondwhite
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Dec 16 2018 15:49

Corporations have certainly squashed much of the potential of social media and the internet for radical organising on their platforms. I'm not sure federated social media will reach new people either. But the internet of the past has not disappeared, people still visit websites and forums. I like your example of podcasts too. Libcom now has https, but a mobile interface would be good.
https://libcom.org/forums/feedback-content/mobile-interface-15082016

little_brother's picture
little_brother
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Dec 16 2018 20:12

We are where we are. Content creation and publishing used to be via typewriters, letraset, pen and ink and printing presses. DIY meant getting hold of an aging offset litho printing press or using connections with friendly organisations or individuals for their photocopying or banda machines, screen print frames or paying for expensive commercial work. This was repeated when DTP came along - a comrade working at an office with a laser printer. The Web changed all that. Anarchists punched above weight with collaborative efforts a-infos, Indymedia and getting online in general. Libcom is part of that. But content creation is for the masses now and the social media tools are in the hands of the corporations to control. We always were a small voice making ourselves as loud as possible but the room is bigger plus there are lots of little rooms where it's easy to talk to youself. This was always the promise and danger of vast numbers of channels.
But we made/make our voices heard on the street as well and maybe this is where we may still have an advantage as it takes more effort? And we can keep trying to use the mainstream platforms but knowing the plug can always be pulled and so have our print media, bookshops, social centre and other public forums to maintain an independent platform.