GNU Social And You

Apr 2011

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets have literally revolutionized the way many people in the world communicate. But, is this communication really free? Can you expect that these services will be up and running and that you'll be able to use them, no matter the political climate of the time?

We have to ask these questions because of events that have happened around the world. Iran protestors made use of Facebook to organize their demonstrations. Egyptian students also used social media outlets to assemble and orchestrate civil unrest about their government. At any time, all of these protests could have been curtailed or even completely eliminated if any of the social media's centralized services were cut off. In fact, the governments of each of these countries were pressuring these outlets to shutdown services to their countries. Fortunately, they didn't. But, with high financial interests at stake for players like Facebook, social media outlets could have easily relented to these demands.

However, do not think that it will take civil unrest for these outlets to also spy and monitor your data. They are already doing it. The centralized nature of the system allows vast repositories of data to be maintained about all of your interactions on these sites. In fact, the free email accounts that most of you are using are being scanned for this very purpose. Right now they can send you targeted ads. Imagine what else might be possible, and how easy it would be to obtain full data maps of people's lives. There is no greater threat to your civil liberties, privacy and autonomy on the internet.

So, how can we make sure a kill switch cannot be flipped to disconnect individuals protesting for their rights? Equally important, how do you regain control over your data and start enjoying your privacy and autonomy once again? The short answer is that we need to decentralize the internet. Decentralized services are not tied down to one location or to private ownership. The manner in which they are set up also provides a means to communicate with others without the loss of your data which means you can keep your privacy.

More importantly, you don't have to wait for this to happen. GNU Social is a free software program that operates in a decentralized way, allowing you to interact with family, friends, or whomever you wish. Since this allows you local control over your interactions with others, all your data remains in your home and under your protection. This also means that you and others who are using the software do not have to worry about a kill switch being flipped to disconnect anyone. You also keep the logs of everything.

In short, if you want to have more control over how you interact on the web, and regain your freedom, privacy and autonomy from outside interference, you need to start moving towards using programs like GNU Social.