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It's Past Time to Completely Boycott All Big Technology Companies

Although I had been meaning to focus my energies towards promoting this website in the near-term, I found myself spurred into hot-blooded action after I had the displeasure of encountering a post by a certain individual who shall not be named. The individual in question was (rightly) complaining about the new centralised and bland Web of old, and was proposing taking action by... forming a group on the proprietary, Google-infested spyware platform known as Discord to talk about it. Apparently said individual's memories of the old Internet aren't inclusive of the free, intuitive, and decentralised chat protocol known as IRC.

I have avoided naming the person I'm referencing because this is not meant to be an article directed at them. This sort of sentiment is one that I have encountered far too many times to count. People rightfully decrying the many evils of big technology companies, and then in the same breath announcing that they'll continue to rely on them because they can't handle the slight inconvenience or mental effort that it would take to find alternatives.

The most blatant example is all of the conservative politicians, pundits, and media organisations that have been rightly decrying the bias and censorship of big technology platforms while refusing to lift a finger to move to alternative platforms until they're banned for life from the main ones. Or even after that, sometimes. And because I know someone will be ticked off just by my mentioning this, I will repeat now that my animosity towards big technology companies involves far more than political censorship, as I will explain.

For the record, this is exactly why I find absolutely no reason to hope for (or fear the prospect of) there ever being a revolution in a western country. Forget the idea of large groups of people assembling who are willing to sacrifice their way of life, all of their comforts, and even their very lives to change things - we can't even find people that are willing to spend 5 minutes researching alternatives to corporate platforms that exist solely to track and sell the private information of their users, while haranguing about being in opposition to the Internet being dominated by them.

The companies that turned the Web from the whimsical wonderland of the 90s to the cesspool of advertising, propaganda, social media, and insipid personal branding sites that it is now, did not do so in some inevitable process that had nothing to do with any of us. Google and Facebook aren't indomitable dark gods whose corruption of our world was beyond our ability to resist. Entry #2 in this CRACKED article predicted the degeneration of the Web to the tee, and it was written back in 2010.

Now, the majority of the blame ultimately lies in the normiefication of the Internet, but I cannot blame normalcattle for their natural behaviours any more than I can blame a dog for defecating on the ground. I will, however, freely pass judgment on any thinking human being that complains about the stench of the dog feces while depositing their own filthy contribution right next to it.

Every time one of us uses a big technology platform, we generate revenue for them and allow them to grow ever more powerful and dangerous. We have already reached the point where a few large corporations effectively control the Internet and can silence world leaders and even shut down their own competitors with nary a peep from a single world government. In short, if you routinely feed the baby dragon, you have no right to complain when it devours you upon growing large enough to do so. And don't think for a second that it won't do so if it has the opportunity.

The famous first they came... poem is so timeless specifically because the sort of behaviour described in it is so characteristic of fascists rising to power. Ultimately, a government or other ruling body cannot stay in power if enough people are militant enough about removing them from power at all costs. As such, they must slowly demonise their opposition to obtain the public's support, while slowly conditioning them into believing that the unruly behaviour of their government is not only necessary but even desirable.

I mentioned conservative censorship and deplatforming earlier primarily because it's the most widespread sort of power abuse that these companies are currently engaging in. I would not suddenly begin singing the praises of these companies if they start censoring liberals or libertarians or anarchists or what have you, because I am a genuine fervent supporter of free speech. To quote Voltaire biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall's summarisation of the philosopher's beliefs: "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

I can go on listing examples of other countries where big technology companies are running afoul of ruling governments with their acts of censorship, from Uganda to Australia, but that would be beside the point. The problem lies in the fact that unelected and unaccountable bodies have effectively taken complete control over the most powerful communication method the world has ever had.

When the United States revealed the existence of the atom bomb by murderiong hundreds of thousands of civilians and annihilating two cities, people weren't panicking and condemning the act because they were anti-American or because they supported Imperial Japan. Their fears lied in the fact that it was now possible for a world leader to unleash such unimaginable devastation by dropping a single bomb. Much the same, regardless of your political beliefs, we should be quite concerned and should be taking action over the fearsome social control powers that big technology companies now have, not celebrating because of who they're currently wielding or not wielding them against.

To put it plainly: no one should be in support of their rulers possessing powers, unless they also feel safe with the ideological opposites of the current rulers having such powers were they to succeed the current ones. It's easy to support computer oligarchs engaging in cancel "culture" or deplatforming of your perceived enemy, until you turn on your PC to update your website one morning and learn that the powers-that-be decided that Neocities was an unsightly blight ruining the uniform shopping mall that they have molded the Web into, and conveniently found (or planted!) some "hate speech" to shut them down for.

This goes far deeper than just politics of course. The recent actions of the dork aristocracy are just high profile examples of what they've been doing for decades, with the blessings of their unwitting users. The ultra-complex algorithms used by Google and social media have been more and more finely tuned for decades to show content that generates more revenue for the corporations running them, not to find genuinely informative and interesting content. In terms of search engines, Google is by far the worst offender, and I can safely and unironically say that even the oft-maligned Bing is vastly superior to it as a search engine these days.

One can easily spend their life on the Web without ever realising that there is still a veritable sea of high quality Web 1.0 sites out there to explore. Indeed, I would wager that the vast majority don't have a clue. Even I, despite pining for the old Web for over a decade, somehow only learned of the existence of Neocities less than a year ago. That alone shows how insidiously successful the work of using censorship to chisel the Web into a parking lot full of advertisements for worthless products.

And yet, as sordid as this all is, the problems with big technology companies go beyond even this. There has been a widespread push by these companies to subtly completely abolish private property (software-as-a-service being an obvious one). I saw this coming clear as day when Netflix and music streaming began popping up, but lamentably, far too many others were fooled by the "convenience" these services offered. A convenience that comes at the cost of your access to all of your entertainment being at the mercy of the whims of faceless corporations.

Foregoing owning your books, music, games, software, and movies in favour of borrowing them from a corporation is sheer lunacy. Even putting aside the fact that the company can go under at any moment, there is also nothing stopping them from deleting your media, cutting off your access to it even if you've already purchased it. These companies are also open about how disturbingly and intricately they spy on their users and their habits. I may be a tad overly old school by still buying CDs and having a large collection of both music CDs and VHS cassettes, but at least I can sleep knowing that they're mine and not subject to anyone else's whims.

Now, I will freely admit that I am by no means perfect myself. While I stick to using a flip phone, abstain entirely from social media, avoid Google in every conceivable way, and use a VPN and numerous pro-privacy browser extensions, I do also still use Nu-Windows 8.1 (for now), watch YouTube videos sometimes, and utilise both Photoshop and Steam.

I did not choose to write this to pontificate about being a saint, only to address the urgency in abandoning these companies to the fullest extent that is possible for each of us. We have all seen what they have already taken from us, and we more or less understand what they are capable of taking from us in the future. There are high quality alternatives to all big technology platforms and programs. Some are a tad lacking compared to their mainstream competitors, some are objectively superior, but all are worth switching to in order to preserve the Web and our freedoms.

I may likely write a follow-up rant in the near future detailing specific alternatives to each big technology company, because this is a topic that is too detailed to attempt to fit into this one.