Corporate Social Networking

What are you talking about?

Corporate Social Networks (CSNs) are things like facebook, myspace, bebo and so on. In this discussion, we’re also including things that describe themselves as Social Bookmarking Services and Search Engines run by media & marketing corporations.

Every other website links to these things, so what’s the big deal?

If the internet was run transparently for the benefit of everyone who uses it, this would not be a problem. Some of us are working to make the networks democratic and free, but at the moment the internet is largely run as an advertising medium. If you’re not convinced, just follow the money — big corporations provide the CSNs and use them to deliver huge numbers of advertisements, paid for by their clients who want you to buy their shit. The same corporations lobby governments and inter-governmental organisations to provide the right kind of infrastructure to deliver their suggestions for what to consume straight into your brain. They collect information about what your interests are and use that to target adverts at you. We believe this is a highly fucked-up situation.

Why shouldn’t I trust them? You’re just being paranoid, right?

Well sure, it’s part of our politics that we’re going to question anything that favours consumerism and corporatism. But if you’re not convinced by the ‘follow the money’ considerations, just take a look at how the CSNs behave.

Not only are they paid for by marketing corporations, they also have a very cosy relationship with law-enforcement agencies around the world. So much so that they write helpful documents (read about it here) for dumb cops describing how to subpoena your personal information.

They also have a well-documented track record of shutting down personal accounts and groups that are being used for subversive activities. Subversive as in, planning a free party or a trade-union mobilisation.

Now I’m scared, what should I do?

Don’t panic, you’re amongst friends.

If you’re a regular user of CSNs and you’re not happy about being fed targeted advertising and being monitored by the state, here are a few things you might do:

  • Talk about it with your local radical tech collective or Indymedia Collective, who will probably be able to give you face-to-face advice about on-line security & privacy
  • Read some of the great resources at eff.org
  • Move your political organising out of the corporate web, and in to activist web spaces like aktivix.org , we.riseup.net , noblogs.org, etc.
  • Calmly warn anyone who hasn’t thought about these things to read this page.

Striking a balance between security and getting the word out.

You’re probably wondering, if CSNs are so very bad, why does this website give you a handy tool for ‘sharing’ links to our content on those very bad places?

There is an argument that says, people who object to these things should leave them well alone because any content we feed into CSNs can be associated with you, used to track your interests and target advertising/repression at you.

There is another argument that the people who most need to see the content that’s published on Indymedia are the people who are locked in to the corporate internet, and that we need to use any tools we can to reach those dark places. On balance, we think this is the stronger argument but we decided that we owed you, dear reader, an explanation.