Visitors to Reddit’s r/technology thread will be sorely disappointed today as the thread has gone dark as part of a social media strike.
Devised by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, the strike is about making a stand against platforms like Facebook and Twitter and the amount of control these big tech companies have over the internet and our lives.
In a blog, Sanger laid out the rules for the strike which include no posting on social media except to publicise the strike over July 4 and 5, and to sign a “Declaration of Digital Independence” which calls for decentralised social media.
“For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labor without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the Internet and the corporations behind them,” writes Sanger.
The declaration lays out the issues currently plaguing these platforms such as algorithms designed to highlight controversial content, marketing private data, avoiding using strong end-to-end encryption and profiting from the content of its users.
The idea is that the strike will demonstrate the need for such a system which would allow people to own their own data and force social media services to create platforms that adhere to a universal set of standards and protocols.
It’s a worthy campaign. Whilst a lot of great things and connections come out of social media, namely the spread of dog memes, there’s no denying that myriad issues besiege the platforms - from fake news to harmful content, particularly when it comes to children. In the UK, the Information Commission wants to encourage companies to adopt a child-friendly design code that would remove certain aspects, including the “like” button (which has been found to make platforms more addictive to use) and minimise data collection, for children under the age of 18.
The Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "This is the connected generation. The Internet and all its wonders are hardwired into their everyday lives. We shouldn't have to prevent our children from being able to use it, but we must demand that they are protected when they do. This code does that."
We’ll have to see how the Social Media Strike goes but one thing is for certain, the backlash against the big platforms is growing.