" Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said, in a speech last week at Georgetown University, that his social media megacorp and its Big Tech peers “have decentralized power by putting it directly into people’s hands.”
That sounds comforting and egalitarian, but a lot of people worry these days that they’ve actually centralized power—around themselves. This has become ever more obvious since Russian agents used Facebook in an attempt to manipulate the U.S. public in the 2016 election. It’s clearer every time somebody searches or posts about dogs, only to find their feeds inundated with dog food ads.
Capitalizing on the oceans of data produced by the web has turned Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google into empires, but it hasn’t made the internet a more open place, said Christian Fuchs, a media professor at the University of Westminster in London. “The internet is a corporate monopoly today,” he said, “and monopolies are always a danger to democracy.”
While lawmakers try to combat the concerns by talking about antitrust and regulation, a cottage industry of true decentralizers is emerging in the computer space. They want to recapture the original promise of the web, to create a platform where information isn’t siloed by private companies or monitored by police states.
“We need a web of the people, not a web of the corporations,” said Prof. Fuchs. While he worries about the current web, he is optimistic about the odds of improving it: “There’s now more public awareness, and that’s the foundation of changing things.”"
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