Snowden on Federation

@snowden at … full video at

There’s a big controversy happening right now – about this election particularly – regarding Facebook. There’s this claim – it really hasn’t been proven and hasn’t really been substantiated, but it’s getting pretty popular, where they say, “Facebook ruined the election because the showed fake news. Now, if that were true and if that were possible and Facebook just did put fake news up and down their pages all day long and we were actually persuaded by that .. I think that’s actually a very sad indictment of our democracy. That our voters could be so easily misled. But, where it true, and there’s some evidence that it may be – this gets into a bigger challenge which is the lack of competition. The fact that there seems to be no alternative to the largest services, because of the ‘first mover advantage’ when you get a Google in place, when you get a Facebook in place, when you get a Twitter in place – they never seem to leave. This brings us to – ‘how do we resolve this?’ – federation is the traditional technical response to the danger of centralization of power and the danger of single points of failure where if one company makes a bad decision or one service provider makes a bad decision – we all suffer for it. Instead, we have what we have what are called ‘federated services’ where instead of one Facebook we have ten-thousand Facebooks all of which are connected together and all of which can impose their own rules. So if one Facebook clone has problems they can start to be filtered, they can be scrutinized a little more carefully, people use that less, it becomes less popular, there is a stigma associated with it. The Silicon Valley desire for massive, world-eating services – this scale that takes over not just all our country, but others, are asking us to accept a status quo in which we set that aside, we set aside that competition in favour of scale. It think we should be particularly cautious about embracing this and taking it as something that should always be the case because when we look at monopolies throughout the past they have grown in a very quiet mode, eventually achieved a platform of prominence, operated reasonably carefully and rationally at that period to maximize their profits, and once they’ve gotten so big that no one can stop them, they get less careful and get more muscular over time and eventually they end up trampling not just their customers but paradigms in ways that I think we need to be very cautious about integrating not just into our networks but into our understanding of what structures are operating within our society that don’t really bother us and that seem normal.




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