Since that 1999, the Internet’s decentralized nature has diminished and its status as a global public resource is under threat. In the 21st century, a handful of tech giants with massive sway and reach are consolidating power, playing the parts of gatekeeper and rule-maker online.
As a result, the Internet looks less and less like a constellation. Instead, it is starting to resemble maps from centuries past, when empires ruled vast swaths of land, engulfing independent villages and smaller kingdoms. Think the Roman Empire in the second century or the British Empire in the 19th.
The Internet was built as a level playing field — a platform where creation was as routine as consumption. But this open Internet quickly encountered an adversary: Internet Explorer. By the start of the 21st century, browsing important content on the web all but required Microsoft’s browser. Internet Explorer had a 98 percent market share at its peak.
On a platform meant to distribute power equally, Microsoft created a monopoly. In many ways, Internet Explorer became the Internet’s first empire.
But the Internet’s first empire eventually crumbled. With their web under threat, users responded. A movement emerged, championing alternative browsers and open web standards. Decentralization won.
We’re now two decades removed from the Internet Explorer monopoly. And the power dynamic online has shifted again.
The Internet today is increasingly shaped by a small collection of digital giants: Amazon. Apple. Facebook. Google.
Even if these companies’ intentions are good, the amount of control they exert conflicts with the Internet’s best nature.
Digital empires shrink the Internet’s potential for individual opportunity and creation.
We encountered a startling mindset in Africa — for many users, the Internet was indistinguishable from Facebook. The Internet didn’t exist outside of this singular social network.
Facebook acts as a walled garden, shepherding users into a small corner of the Internet. As a result, Facebook sets the rules — for content creation, consumption, and sharing.
Digital empires, much like their 19th-century counterparts, make it hard for people to have agency and seize an opportunity.
For example, today’s app economy, dictated by a tiny number of players like the App Store and Google Play, creates a divide between the creators and consumers — or, the winners and the losers.
The result is a colonial-like trade flow. Resources are extracted from emerging markets in the form of clicks and eyeballs, and the richer countries reap the rewards. It’s a one-sided flow — and app developers in emerging markets struggle spectacularly to find a foothold. Local developers simply cannot compete. This all leads to a dearth of local online content — and a dependence on the monopolies.
The above descriptions are what are referred to as Digital colonialism. Simply put, “Digital colonialism” designates the centralized extraction of data from citizens without their explicit consent through communication networks developed and owned by Western tech companies. This structure has four primary actors:
- The tech companies providing the technology and infrastructure for data extraction, ad targeting, and ad distribution.
- The advertising and consultancy firms, which use the technology, provided by (1) to target different groups with highly personalized ads and messages.
- The local companies, parties, and organizations that pay (2) to help them impose their different agendas for the respective countries.
- The citizens who play both the role as data sources for (1) and target groups for (2) and (3).
For the tech companies, the citizens’ data are just like natural resources: they may be extracted and sold as commodities to commercial and political interests who need to know their target groups so that they are able to push political messages, agendas or sell products to citizens.
The very core of the business model is already well known from the West: the tech companies provide seemingly free communication services and search engines, track the user around the platforms (and almost everywhere else on the internet — e.g. via the “social plug-ins”) in order to enable advertisers to target consumers and voters with personal ads based on their behavioral patterns.
Social networks like Facebook, which is getting more and more widespread on the African continent, are key tools to reach the public and set the agenda, e.g. in elections. But what is going viral is not always true.
The social and political consequences of these unfortunate eventualities concern citizens and pose threats to their self-determination and security. However, to the tech giants and consultancy firms providing and using the communication technology to harvest data and target audiences, it is just business.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF DIGITAL COLONIALISM?
Digital colonialism is threatening to turn young, developing democracies with more data-driven misinformation and manipulation resulting in more tribal violence and instability.
The potential data gathering could be extremely intrusive, including sensitive personal data, such as a person’s ethnicity.
The new digital colonial actors who feed, monetize and profit from diversion and polarization may only be effectively resisted by a united front of actors working together for political self-determination, democracy and development of the African continent on its own terms.
Countries such as Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria have no or very limited data protection laws, which makes citizen data a veritable (and profitable) buffet for the digital colonizers. It is easy to harvest data and to use it for targeting the right groups with the messages that feed the strongest mobilizing emotions: fear, anger, and hate.
These countries in Africa, as a region have clocked the world’s fastest growth in Internet use over the past decade. Unlike in Europe and the US, where data-privacy laws provide a level of protection to consumers, many Africans have little or no recourse if a data breach occurs because often legal and regulatory safeguards don’t exist.
Recent revelations about British analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which Facebook says improperly accessed personal data of about 50 million of the social network’s users in the 2016 US presidential election, have also touched Africa. Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL Group worked on the 2013 and 2017 campaigns of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The company was also hired to support the failed re-election bid of then-president Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria in 2015, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
A spokesman for the Nigerian president said the country’s government would investigate allegations of improper involvement by Cambridge Analytica in the 2007 and 2015 elections.
Kenya’s ruling Jubilee party said it had hired SCL for “branding” in the 2017 presidential election but did not elaborate on the precise nature of the work.
The growth of Internet use in Africa, a continent of 1 billion people, has been fuelled by rapidly expanding mobile broadband networks and ever more affordable cell phones.
That presents a major growth opportunity for Internet companies such as Facebook, which has about 123 million people across sub-Saharan Africa accessing its social network platform monthly.
This was their primary motivation for the against Facebook’s Free Basics app, which allows free but limited internet access through partnering with mobile networks.
A report released today by activist group Global Voices found that not only does Facebook’s Free Basics violate net neutrality principles, but also it’s also not even very helpful to those who use it. Free Basics, an app that provides free access to specific services in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, was already banned in India last year for violating net neutrality rules.
Upon opening the app, users have to get by with a Bing search engine, a Johnson & Johnson-sponsored baby advice app, and a number of other sponsored apps. Facebook is usually the only popular social media app available on Free Basics, predictably, while smaller, language-specific apps like ConnectAmericas for Mexico and Colombia were found in certain cases. Free Basics doesn’t have an email platform.
With Free Basics, the report claims that Facebook acts essentially just like an ISP and collects users’ traffic data. “For users who want to get online with Free Basics, Facebook makes and enforces the rules of the road, and is the primary benefactor of profits generated by user data,” the report states.
Free Basics, Facebook’s free, limited internet service for developing markets, is neither serving local needs nor achieving its objective of bringing people online for the first time.
Free Basics is a Facebook-developed mobile app that gives users access to a small selection of data-light websites and services. The websites are stripped of photos and videos and can be browsed without paying for mobile data.
Facebook sees this as an “on-ramp” to using the open internet: by introducing people to a taster of the internet, they will see the value in paying for data, which in turn brings more people online and can help improve their lives.
Free Basics, built for developing markets, focuses on ‘western corporate content’ and violates net neutrality principles.
Facebook is not introducing people to open Internet where you can learn, create and build things. It’s building this little web that turns the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content. That is digital colonialism.
To deliver the service, which is now active in 65 countries, Facebook partners with local mobile operators. Mobile operators agree to “zero-rate” the data consumed by the app, making it free, while Facebook does the technical heavy lifting to ensure that they can do this as cheaply as possible. Each version is localized, offering a slightly different set of up to 150 sites and services.
But many of the services with the most prominent placement — on the app’s homepage — are created by private US companies, regardless of the market. These include AccuWeather, Johnson & Johnson-owned BabyCenter, BBC News, ESPN and the search engine Bing. There are no other social networking sites apart from Facebook and no email provider.
Alongside them are country-specific offerings, but their presence is determined by which companies have adapted their code to meet the requirements of the Free Basics platform, rather than those that meet local needs.
The content does not include some of the important websites locals want to look at.
In the Mexican version of the app, offered by Telcel, there’s only one local site on the first page: for the foundation of the billionaire Carlos Slim, the CEO of Telcel. Bizarrely, the same app also offers two Nigerian websites and a regional news outlet for Argentina.
Free Basics is also restricted in terms of language. Kenyan users can choose an interface in English or Kiswahili, but most of the services are offered in English only. In Ghana, everything is in English, even though other languages, such as Akan, Twi, and Hausa are widely spoken.
When a user tries to access information outside of the tiny walled garden, a pop-up appears urging them to buy more data. For example, although Free Basics includes access to the Bing search engine and will show snippets of listings for free, reading any of the results of the search requires payment. On Facebook, this means people can see links to news and blog posts but can’t read them.
“This means people are reacting to articles through click bait headlines only and not by reading the whole article. It makes it difficult to detect fake news.
This is particularly jarring given the way that Free Basics as advertised.
“The advertising implies that it’s a free Internet, but then you actually use it and it’s not really the full Internet. It misleads the public and makes them think these sites and services are the essential tools.
The promotion of certain sites and services through zero-rating the data also infringes on net neutrality, the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat everyone’s data equally to prevent a tiered system, in which some content providers have an unfair advantage.
It was these concerns, along with accusations of cultural imperialism, that scuppered the Free Basics launch in India (a move that led the Facebook board member Marc Andreessen to angrily tweet remarks that implied support for British colonialism).
Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has argued that some Internet is better than no Internet.
“Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity,” he said on his Facebook profile in 2015.
This is a baseless argument because Facebook has a responsibility to its investors and that is being served by getting more eyeballs on its site, to lure users.
Whatever Facebook’s true goal, Free Basics offers the company another treasure trove of data: all user activities within the app are channeled through Facebook’s servers. This means Facebook can tell which third-party sites users are looking at, when and for how long.
“The program has created substantial new avenues for Facebook to gather data about the habits and interests of users in countries where they aspire to have a strong presence, as more users come online.
WHY TERM FACEBOOK FREE BASIC COLONIALISM
A lot of people ask “If people are happy using platforms like Facebook, why frame it in negative terms?
It is termed that way because it’s a very serious issue and has serious implications.
The foundations of freedom and democracy are at stake when centralized, global agents have the power to monitor, process and mediate all user communications. They analyze personal data and make collective behavior predictable, and the knowledge is privatized and protected by trade secret laws. Honestly, I cannot find positive terms to describe the relationship we have with big tech companies today: it is based on the erosion of basic human rights and data extractivism — and it offers few benefits in return.
HOW DO WE RESIST DIGITAL COLONIALISM?
We do not need to resist it, we need to end it.
We need accelerated reforms in the spirit of antitrust. We need to contain the expansion of big tech and their ability to extract data from people on abusive terms.
This is not a job for grassroots movements alone. To burn down digital colonialism we need municipalities, regions, cooperatives, collective forms of social innovation and collaboration. We need everyone to become aware of what’s at stake, so we can take back our public infrastructure, and build our own sustainable platforms for the future.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO DIGITAL COLONIALISM?
From the tired old protocols to the oligarchs who sell, meter, and spy on the bandwidth they supply to you, the current Internet that we all rely on every day is far from working as intended. Skycoin believes in a future where access to an open Internet is a basic human right. There is an alternative to the legacy Internet, as we know it. The solution is Skywire — a cheaper, faster, democratized Internet, free from prying eyes and bad actors.
Skywire is the dawning of a new era with the advancement of Internet 3.0.
The Skywire communication protocol uses Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS), rather than TCP/IP, to enable highly scalable and high-performance transport of any data across any medium. With MPLS, routes through the network are determined prior to sending traffic.
Skywire is a mesh network, meaning that it is comprised of thousands of nodes in diverse geographic locations, all connected to each other to transmit Internet traffic. This network of nodes creates a spider web effect, such that when one node goes down, the other nodes continue to operate as if nothing happened.
This is a truly decentralized, fairly distributed and more resilient Internet protocol.
Mesh networks operate differently than traditional centralized networks and present an opportunity to make necessary and long overdue changes to the global Internet infrastructure.
Skywire uses blockchain technology to create a peer-to-peer community-driven market for Internet service. It’s fast, private, and secure and provides decentralized Internet.
Skywire is built for users, by users. Unlike networks under corporate ISPs, the community makes decisions on Skywire. Nodes function based on a web-of-trust system. Malicious nodes can be cut off by collective agreement, and trustworthy nodes strengthened. Web-of-trust consensus makes Skywire immune to attacks, exploitation, and manipulation. It creates a system where everyone has a say.
Skywire will protect net neutrality at the hardware level, by taking control of network hardware from the ISPs and putting it the hands of the community. Its peer-to-peer network proves that we don’t have to rely on corporate ISPs. Skywire wants to reinvent the Internet: a user-powered network that’s free and open to all.
With Skywire, there are no huge bills and unfair business practices. It’s a self-sufficient network, 100% owned and maintained by the user community.
Skycoin technology creates an alternative Internet. It provides a peer-to-peer network that circumvents ISPs to deliver control back to the user. You can share content freely without throttling, blocking, or censorship. It’s fast, private, and encrypted to be maximally secure. Plus, decisions on the Skycoin network are controlled by community consensus, not by corporations looking for a profit.
Peer-to-peer technology doesn’t require you to give up your identity and data to access content. Skycoin’s network, Skywire, provides a blockchain-based decentralized network where you can browse securely and privately. With Skywire, you own your data and control your own experience.
The IP is whatever node you’ve connected to, not your own. Skycoin nodes can be installed over Skywire for enhanced privacy.
Skywire encrypts IP address and instead displays them as public keys, which would also only be the exit nodes IP that could be recorded.
Even when using the public Internet, whichever Skycoin node you connect to acts as a proxy on your behalf. The only thing you need to do on the client side is sign the message with your cipher.
Users of Skywire will be able to choose what content they subscribe to and therefore will not have to view any content they do not want to.
Any data passing through a node will be entirely encrypted, so there is no way for nodes to know what they are forwarding. However if they know another node is a bad actor, they can blacklist that node from their connections and no longer send or receive data from them.
In terms of privacy protection, Skycoin also has relevant regulations. A user running a Skywire access point allows any user in the range to connect through the access point. Because of encryption, the access point operator cannot determine the form of traffic passing through the access point. The recipient of the traffic cannot determine the path of the traffic through the access point. This is very effective in removing the legal responsibility for operating open access points.
The operator can never grasp any information about the transit traffic, and the receiver of the traffic cannot recognize the operator of the network access point. And, by adding mandatory hops (a “guard node”), ISPs cannot easily identify Skycoin Darknet traffic from a particular public access node relayed through a particular cable modem.
Skyminer is at the heart of Skywire.
Skyminer is a hardware component that will provide bandwidth, storage and computing resources for the Skywire network.
Skyminer is completely open source, and anyone can build Skyminer to participate in Skywire by providing resources to the network. Skyminer is low cost and efficient. Each Skyminer acts as a node in the Skywire network, creating a node mesh network.
Skyminer allows the Skywire network and the entire Skycoin ecosystem to be used by everyone, regardless of their technical background. In addition, Skyminer’s “plug and play” feature is currently being developed, so anyone can easily deploy nodes on the Skywire network.
The Skycoin system incentivizes a free and community-based model whereby users take responsibility for the network’s growth and viability. Instead of giving up control to exploitative corporate ISPs, users create their own experience. Skywire is self-sustaining and independent.
The advantages of a free and open Internet are clear. With equal access and net-neutral protections in place, users can find the content they want without fear of blocking, surveillance, or legal threats.
Smaller businesses can innovate without being smothered.
The public benefits from increased transparency on topics ranging from policy to health.
Art becomes accessible to a broader demographic, and diverse perspectives can be heard.
Users can choose and create their own content, rather than consuming a limited set of corporate products.
HOW DOES SKYWIRE ACHIEVE ITS OBJECTIVES?
Skycoin will reward people with Skyminer for setting up and registering the mesh nodes in Skywire.
20–30% distribution of the coins, through the network, will be incentives for people running Skywire nodes, consensus nodes, and services via the Skyminer.
You will earn coin hours for forwarding data/traffic. The coin hours will have an exchange rate for Skycoin.
Coin hours are generated for holding Skycoin. So if you own Skycoin you basically get to use the network for free.
Bandwidth is priced in coinhours.
This has culminated in John McAfee, former founder of the world’s first antivirus software and a former NASA computer programmer and a vocal libertarian cryptocurrency advocate, in partnering with Skycoin in his 2020 campaign for the American presidency.
McAfee wants to use Skycoin’s social media platform BBS for his presidential campaign.
Skycoin BBS is going to become a viable alternative to the big social media giants. It will work on Skycoin’s “flagship application,” the Internet platform Skywire.
He gave a ringing endorsement to the project after studying it and confirming it as being able to offer a scalable, censorship-resistant alternative to the Internet that respects the privacy of its users.
Like McAfee said “You cannot be free and at the same time be regulated. Fools will always loose. We cannot save them.
Technologies designed for freedom are absolutely necessary to change the current trajectory. Strategic development and implementation, combined with sound policies, education, and grassroots activism can counter digital colonialism.
The time to act is now.
Why a lot of people are in cryptocurrency to make monetary profits, it must be emphasized that Skycoin is committed to providing life solutions and one must not overlook the solutions they are providing here. The various videos posted on this post shows the far-reaching consequences of digital colonialism and how it can potentially create all kinds of civil wars amongst citizens of a country. Please pay attention and be patient with solutions Skycoin is providing.
Are you ready for the revolution?
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