In the more-or-less three decades the Web has of “mature life”, it went through all hypes and moods you can think about. From the freedom-bringer until the surveillance-beast, the global network is still highly controversial and, therefore, worth discussing. But since the social networks and search engines decided that they could put a price in anything they could squeeze a few bucks from, it seems clear that the Internet is, to use a Mark Zuckerberg expression, “an existential threat”. Society heads towards self-destruction, once again, as the last generation that saw global conflict is dying. The Internet needs a limit, but not the one you are thinking about.
Regulation. The word that investors, corporation, shareholders and the financial systems hate most. Regulation is something that usually comes after went severely wrong or when a government sees a chance to drain more money from new millionaires that haven’t endorsed their electoral campaigns yet. It’s more often than not an excuse for the state to decide who will get the more significant chunk. Or, as Brazilian suicidal dictator Getulio Vargas once put it: “To our friends, everything; to our enemies, the law”.
But this is not what regulation needs to be. It’s precisely the opposite. The state should stay away. Using another quote, now from Tolstoy, “government is violence”, and almost everywhere is an apparatus to keep the elite where it is. Regulation needs to come from society and stay under public control and surveillance. It cannot belong to a union, a company, a cartel or any entity controlled by bureaucracy schemes.
The Internet needs the kind of regulation that ait makes it accountable. Social giants have to provide all details about who buys its advertisement. It sh to prevent false information to be spread. It should be held responsible for the individuals behind a group.
Before than anyone comes with the 1st amendment excuse, a digression: regulation should allow all kinds of opinion. It includes zealots, racists, and any other types of scum because they have rights to. They need to be held accountable for three things: inciting violence or hate, breaking the written or customary law and spreading false information. Back in the enlightenment, John Stuart Mill already proved this as a pillar of liberalism. “Liberal” is a word that, in English, comes via Old French from Latin liberalis, from liber’ free (man)’. Liberals, especially in America, where they found a new fetish in the word “socialism” (which they blatantly don’t know where they are talking about), use to say, only tho their antagonists that “freedom of expression is not a license to be stupid”. They are wrong. Freedom of expression is an excuse to be stupid, too, like it or not.
The regulation that the Internet needs is transparency. Society has the right and the obligation to know the names of the company and the people behind every movement, group, gathering or anything close to that. It needs to know who are the donors to the campaigns that fuel the scumbags that feel empowered by shotguns. Accurate regulation means to force corporations to understand, by any means, that they cannot profit from hate, lies, deceit or anything else, no matter the pathetic excuses their PR departments use to try to shield their higher management.
Technology also has an obligation. Open-source software should not be a resource for individuals and small businesses to take advantage of well-done software. Open-source code should be ubiquitous. Algorithms that are kept hidden must also have some control.
There is nothing “socialist” here. This is about to preserve the individual and society freedoms through meritocracy and accountability. The who-lies-better war that rages in so many countries now must be put to an end by force. Politicians always lied, but now, technology can be a very efficient tool to make their dirty habits harder, but this won’t come until the gigantic corporations are stripped of their legal tricks to protect their shareholders and executives.
Open-source is highly capitalist. It is flexible, accountable, it is rated under meritocracy, has high levels of cost-effectiveness, offers robust information security and allows virtually anyone to check if something fishy is running under. It provides incentives for corporations to use it (think about Visual Studio Code, Angular, React, and so many other company-backed repos). It’s unheard of an open-source project that ended up controlled by a group who hijacked it to do spurious deeds. Today around a third of commercial applications uses some crowdsourced code – because it works and is usually cheaper.
Any person that has a minimal degree of lucidity can easily see that something is broken. Part of the elite pretends to see nothing because they are so hardwired to protect their revenues that they forgot they also have sons, daughters and descendants that will have to live in the same world they are destroying for a last chunk of money. The transparency regulation has to preserve will benefit everyone. No millionaire will have its wealth taken. Capitalism can optimize the use of resources, but not when the power of the capital itself distorts it.
When one looks at the history, sometimes it is difficult to understand how irrational things became that ended up in massive bloodsheds. None who hasn’t seen war with their own eyes have a hard time to understand how the irrationality is built by grains of sand that none sees until the mountain is done. Our times will probably be described as such a period. Transparency, regulation and open-source won’t stop the tragedy we seem to be heading to, but their renouncement can undoubtedly make the process to run faster.