Welcome to the Scrape Economy – Brought to You by the Platforms and Their Protectors

by Mike Wendy on April 10, 2018

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org:

Alexandria, VA, April 10, 2018 – Today’s Facebook inquisition to get Mark Zuckerberg to atone for his Cambridge Analytica “sins” is a charade. It was created by the protectors of Facebook and Silicon Valley to ostensibly “heal” the social media behemoth of its exploitative hijinks. Make no bones about it, though, the whole sordid affair is nothing more than a grand deflection so average Americans don’t see the vast cast of characters who helped Facebook become what it is and how badly those efforts soiled the “free and open” Internet.

Ironically, just three years ago Silicon Valley and its protectors told us it was the evil ISPs we had to watch out for. They had all the power to control the Internet, and could seriously derail democracy, commerce and our way of life if they weren’t hogtied into submission, kept away from our personal data and our free speech. So, FDR-era utility regulation – e.g., Net Neutrality – had to be imposed to protect Facebook and the “next Facebook” (or “Google,” or the next new edge company) so the Internet could truly grow, free from corporate awfulness.

Turns out the “free” platforms (Facebook, Google and Twitter) and their protectors (the politicians, media, foundations and think tanks who took the Platforms’ money and created the protection racket) tooled us; the Platforms have shown themselves to be the bad actors we always knew they were. Now the protectors are wagging their fingers, castigating Facebook (and indirectly, the Platforms) for…

…getting caught doing what they do best.

Which is exploiting and manipulating us all to the nefarious, authoritarian ends of the so-called progressives, while making immense profit margins in the process.

Yes, Americans should have seen that the Platforms’ business model was erected on the moral hazard of our communications laws and its freedom from liability for those who traffic (oftentimes anonymously) in lies, pirated property, fake news, “propaganda” and other ugly stuff.

We should have recognized that Obama’s Net Neutrality rules handcuffed ISPs into little boxes, stripping them of their First Amendment rights, and locking them out of markets for full exploitation by the Platforms.

We should have known that the official policy of the U.S. was to favor and subsidize, through law, loophole or larceny, the Platforms so they could windfall into their pockets tens-of-billions of dollars each year for their “free” (mostly pirated content) services.

And, yes, we should have realized that those running the Platforms overwhelmingly support liberal causes and would actively employ their vast stores of user-generated data (whether users knew about it or not) to elect (or at least try to elect) progressives into office.

But who actually reads the fine print of the EULA? Didn’t the Platforms and their protectors assure us that Silicon Valley “won’t be evil”? We collectively hit “Accept.”

Now the whole den of thieves hopes today’s public act of contrition is enough to help America ignore industry behavior that:

  • Acts in fact and in law like an Uber Citizen, using its official get-out-of-jail-card like a well-worn credit card to avoid the orange jumpsuit when it Wi-Spies on our routers, or snoops for the NSA, or works to rig elections for the Community Organizer and his party.
  • Could not exist but for the stolen content of exploited creators to fill its “free” sites.
  • Looks the other way when it “unwittingly” helps bad people do awful things to others.
  • Stalks its users and exploits their information, their computer habits, their browsing histories, their mobility, their smart appliance use, their satellite-exposed front yards – and then wraps all that up and scrapes it off for sale to the highest bidder.
  • Promotes the flood of anonymous bots into the mechanics of legislative and administrative action, polluting the political arena and diluting the voice of real Americans in order to undermine the laws and rules derived via these open, democratic processes.
  • And blames conservatives for hate, for social division, for bullying, for sexism, for racism, for anti-LGBTQ-ism, for Global Warming, for our failed healthcare system, for Baltimore, for Ferguson, for Charlottesville, for Las Vegas, for Parkland, for the “stolen election,” for “Russian Collusion,” for fake news, for “propaganda,” and then goes about working to excise that expression (mainly conservatives’, that is) in an Orwellian exercise to “improve” civil discourse and free speech.

In short, they want us to ignore how they’ve given us the Scrape Economy – one which is artificial, exploitative and manipulative but seemingly baked into our culture; one which would have every man, woman and child believe that true success and freedom can only be achieved by being tethered to the Platforms’ all-important, treacly Internet teats.

What malarkey.

Being wise to the protectors’ and the Platforms’ wiles, one might surmise that regulation is warranted. That is surely tempting. Facebook’s protectors certainly want it (mostly to limit conservative expression).

At this time, however, such regulation is not needed.

Big government rules will not “fix” the matter. Anyway, we’ve been through this before with Net Neutrality from the same crowd, and we know what that’s all about. The marketplace (and present law if need be) has enough juice to correct bad actors. Abusive behavior at all levels can be changed with this.

Sure, the Platforms are downright skenky. Still, MediaFreedom believes that any privately-owned communications network should be free to operate its facilities as it wants, with as little government intervention as possible. That means prosecuting its bias in any lawful manner – even if, as with Facebook and the other Platforms, it’s horrible and just plain dumb-headed.

We believe also that we’re free to “unfriend” the Platforms when we want to.

Americans should use that all-important tool to hasten change.

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