(I resumed this post draft from 15/01 and updated it. It is still rolling!)
Facebook has an awful lot of power by virtue of the fact that you have a single company making decisions for about 2 billion people all around the worldEthan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab
Despite there is much confusion around recent updates of data sharing between Whatsapp and Facebook (Instagram as well), a critical problem of trust emerged. When we talk about trust and confidence in digital spaces the natural first step is introducing data ownership.
As we walk through the messy road of privacy policies, we get bored from the beginning and discard them to continue using the service. Though this time there was a clear document stating how data are stored and used for corporate interests that everyone can read, and must accept in order to continue using the app.
The difference is that this time a critical mass of people across the web felt threatened and finally considered digital privacy as a value.
This time that critical mass probably, most importantly, realised the lack of transparency, reliability and data ownership of a closed-source centralised big giant called Facebook (for those who are interested in deepening the topic check out the foundation book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Soshana Zuboff, or any other talk/material related to it!).
This time privacy considerations hit a daily habit.
This time I am not just a data privacy geek.
So, now that data privacy has hopefully entered your daily life as well, I can explain why we don’t use Facebook and Instagram, but we talk on Element, we video call in Jitsi, we collaborate real-time on Etherpad, we livestream on OBS through Icecast, we host everything on our local server and for social sharing we’re looking into Mastodon, PeerTube and Odysee(ex LBRY.tv).
First, let’s just say that our data activism is nothing new. There are many examples across the web that mobilized people and resources to set the Internet free from big corporations’ interests; to protect the internet as a global public resource; to make an Internet of people that ensure privacy and accessibility by design as fundamental human rights, while enabling decentralized worldwide collaborations. The open-source movement (IT systems that are distributed, dynamic, adjustable, participatory) started in the 80s – I suggest a short and sweet article for a brief history of open-source software by Aldin Osmanagic. At its dawn the movement was mainly joined by geeks fighting for freedom!, now it attracts social enterprises as well (Learning from the open source movement) due to its core values of openness, knowledge and ideas’ exchange, rewards of cooperation combined with its main features. Open source design connects investors, technologists, researchers, internet users, activists, lawyers, pedagogs and a whole new class of data sociologists (as the International Institute for Analytics – IIA- highlights as the trend of the 4.0 era of analytics in its October 2020 report).
Here we come into play as an open community, a playground for experimentation and action towards environmental and social capital regeneration.
Let me give you an intuition on what social capital is.
Social capital is the value derived from positive connections between people (What is social capital). It has many forms, different definitions in economics, sociology, anthropology, and it is hard to quantify. It includes sharing information and passion, collaborating on a common goal, establishing meaningful relationships, feeling understood, trusting and being trusted, not feeling lonely. Social networks, like Facebook and Instagram, made it easier to connect, share, communicate, gather information, advocate, make others aware of advancements in technology, politics, science, social disorders, climate actions, artistic creations, events, monitor human rights.. Though they did it at the cost of individuals’ freedom (and I will not go into the topics of disseminating disinformation, fostering conspiracy theories.. etc). They turned a noble goal into a money-making machine that has people’s intimate data as currency through a succesfull business model based on advertising. Plus, the human need for social connections fed this machine further. A human fundamental right of privacy (which in our physical life is sacred) is perceived as secondary or futile compared to the great advantages of fake openness, exchanges and social rewards. It seems we encounter the same values of the open-source movement, but these are fake. They are a construct, a symptom derived by the need for social capital of their users. They are not implemented at the core of the technology that allows this ecosystem to work, i.e. privacy by design. It’s a pretty house you bought and you enjoy living in until, out the blue, the real landlord- of whom you had no idea- erupts, kicks you out, and owns everything in it, your dog included. The house is the profile you carefully build on e.g. Facebook, the landlord is Facebook, everything else is whatever information you posted, shared, liked.. and makes your identity. Also in real (physical) life.
This system works so well for the majority of digital tools, apps and social sharing platforms that live upon the human need for social capital (also in the work environment). Examples apart from social media are collaborative tools (Microsoft Teams), e-learning tools (Panopto), video communications (Zoom), streaming (Twitch, Youtube), messaging apps (WhatsApp).
“Data to people” means to have governance of our personal identities while being connected to each other. We committed to be an example in adopting only free software solutions against the capitalization of big giants to contribute in the quest of saving the Internet and protecting the freedom of people, of which privacy is a recognized human right.
Luckily, we don’t need to rediscover the hot water. Our mission is to advocate for those open-source solutions that foster democracy on the Internet, to be the example in their adoption in our whole digital presence and to spread the “Oh, it’s easier than expected” effect in making small changes that can make big changes – when we reach a critical mass of users. The main challenges we face when we use alternative platforms are: get people using it and do not miss out. We continuously research and test out different tools that can be easy to get and use, and we have the passion and motivation to help saving the Internet.
Today there was the ground to write this article. It could be much longer with theories from surveillance capitalism, data exploitation, new tech trends etc.. but I preferred to make it personal, as it started this morning (TO BE CONTINUED..).
Below I grouped some useful links that explain the whys and whats of the software we use, directly from the sources. It’s a work in progress, so this list will be updated and re-updated and re-updated and..
FREE SOFTWARE MOVEMENT
We talk about “Open source” to make it easier, though we follow the values and guidelines of freedom and justice of “Free software” (Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software by the Free Software Foundation).
Have you heard about “The Social Dilemma” documentary on Netflix? Not just a documentary into the hidden disruptions of social media, a platform to take action with an excellent design flair that gained public attention.
ELEMENT – chat app for universal secure collaboration on the MATRIX ecosystem
We’re changing communication to be open for anyone to connect with everyone. We believe people should be able to talk, via the internet, with the same level of privacy as a face-to-face conversation in their own home. We believe people should be able to communicate on their own terms; securely and in control of their data.https://element.io/about
\\UNIVERSAL = open source & Matrix open standard for decentralised communication. No walled garden, no vendors lock-in
\\SECURE = those in the conversation host the conversation (digital self-sovereignty). No service provider keeping tabs, no eavesdroppers
\\COLLABORATION =clean interface for different “rooms” chat
\\MOZILLA CHOSE MATRIX AS OPEN DISCUSSION PLATFORM.
\\Case study: Tchap – French government
\\Element & communities: https://element.io/communities
\\Matrix, an open protocol for federated, end-to-end encrypted messaging: https://matrix.org/
\\Josh explaining Matrix and Element: https://bioteket.dk/freedom-software/matrix-web-client-updates-bioteket-internal-messaging/
\\Why not using Discord for its awesome usability? https://cybernews.com/privacy/discord-privacy-tips-that-you-should-use/ AND EMS – Element Matrix Services – does more https://element.io/blog/ems-brings-harmony-to-discord/
\\History of Discord VS Matrix.org foundation (find the differences in core values for how it will evolve)
JITSI – Open source, community-based, video conference
\\TOR PROJECT SUPPORT JITSI MEET.
\\CASE STUDY: Freie Universitat Berlin (integrated with Matrix) / WeSchool- Italian classroom collaboration
\\Zoom vs Jitsi. There are many videos out there, I suggest this one as clear and complete: https://youtu.be/AYZ98wgh2DM (“[Referring to Zoom] I wouldn’t say shady practices, but I’d say questionable business practices (..) They really need to find a better way to fund themselves, and to make it open-source.”)
OBS & ICECAST – livestreaming
An open source Twitch alternative? Self-host it! As ePirat explains, “A very good program for video source composition and live streaming is OBS, the Open Broadcaster Studio, which a lot of streamers are using to broadcast to Twitch or other streaming sites. A little known fact though is, that you can stream with it to an Icecast server.”
Xiph.Org is about open source and the ideals for which free software stands. Open source is not a fad any more than the Internet is. It is a necessary force driving innovation and the Internet forward while protecting the interests of individuals, artists, developers and consumers. We’re about bringing open source and open source ideals to multimedia…and media on the Internet needs us.Xiph.org foudnation behind Icecast
\\OBS studio – free and open source software for video recording and live streaming: https://obsproject.com/
\\ICECAST – free server software for streaming multimedia: https://icecast.org/
\\Twitch VS Youtube (aka Amazon VS Google) for gaming live streaming: great social bonds enablers, capitalized by tech giants through advertisements (= monetization of personal data) – https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/26/history-of-twitch-gaming-livestreaming-and-youtube.html
How Twitch makes money – and its business model– VS How Youtube make money VS How OBS make money
ETHERPAD – Open source real-time online collaborative text editor
If you were looking for a Google Docs alternative, here we are with https://etherpad.org/# ! It can be self-hosted (as we do on our server) or used through one of the many third-party public instances available.
\\CASE STUDY: P2PU.org (Peer to peer University)
MASTODON – Social network, free, open-source, decentralised
It works like Torrent but it is a social network; like Twitter as interface BUT federated (distributed, can be self-hosted or used), free, open-source (no advertising, monetizing, or venture capital).
The community makes the rules and self-moderates! You can join a user-created network, called instance, or create a new one with your own laws. An instance is like a subreddit but hosted on different servers run by an independent team of developers/volunteers who enforce the Mastodon’s instance rules.
Mastodon can interoperate with all the websites on the fediverse (“federated universe”), i.e. any softwares that use the open protocol ActivityPub, just like sending an email from a Gmail account to Outlook, Posteo, Hotmail etc. You can connect across social networks, so with Twitter friends as well.
I’ll make another post focused on the fediversity revolution and federated Social hubs community empowerment!
In my opinion, “instant, public, global messaging and conversation” should, in fact, be global. Distributed between independent organizations and actors who can self-govern. A public utility, without incentives to exploit the conversations for profit.Eugen Rochko, Mar 3 2018, “Twitter is not a public utility”
\\Mastodon & co: What is Mastodon? , Bluesky thinking of a “governance” body of the fedivers, Fediversity, How to get started (..) and leave Twitter behind
\\Media: Vice, NY Times, The Verge, Wired, Npr
\\On instances: What I wish I knew before joining Mastodon
PEERTUBE – Free-software Video platform
TO BE CONTINUED
ODYSEE (ex LBRY.TV) – Open source, standardized video sharing platform (and protocol) on blockchain
TO BE CONTINUED