Thinking about regulating the online space?

Focus on decentralizing power…

This piece was originally published as a three-part series in Open Democracy (1, 2, 3). Edited for clarity. Expanded PDF version (2021) available at SSRN

Part I — Who’s to blame? The internet on the defendant’s bench

Fig. 1 — A Switchboard (Via AP Photo)
Fig. 2 ArpaNet 1971 — Adapted from Red Hat Linux Test Page
Adapted from Baran (1969)

Part II — The present and future of a centralized internet

Constant evolution

old media — >consumer

new media <— >user

Intermediation continues to grow in breadth and depth, fueling the process of web centralization

Fig. 4The Mechanics of centralization (CC-BY Juan Ortiz Freuler)

The perils of centralization: a look into the future

GIF by nomalles
Fig. 5 The evolution of information retrieval (CC-BY Juan Ortiz Freuler)

Smart assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa are making agreements with companies that produce smart devices (cars, refrigerators, thermostats, etc) . Through these agreements, smart assistants will allow users to control their whole swarm of smart objects more easily. And the companies behind the smart assistant will increase the quantity and quality of data they have about users.

Fig. 6 Platform’s ever-increasing control over information flows

Intermediation in person-to-person communications

Fig 7 — A model of communications inspired by Castells (2009) (CC- BY @Juanof9)

It is fundamental that any and all parties who control these channels respect the integrity of the message that is being delivered.

Fig. 8 Screenshot: George Costanza, Seinfeld.

The process of constructing meaning is deeply political.

A centralized web of content, where the few define which frames should be applied and distributed, becomes a liability.

Part III — Focus on re-decentralizing Power!

Many claim the internet is broken… The social contract is what’s broken.

how can we ensure the internet will enable us, the citizens, to share ideas freely, coordinate around common goals, and act in defense of our rights and interests?

How can we ensure these protections will be effective even in scenarios where the powers-that-be feel profoundly challenged by the people’s capacity to coordinate en masse?

Centralization and decentralization

We the people cannot afford the risks centralization entails to the internet of tomorrow, and its ability to deliver social change.

The Neutrality Pyramid

Fig. 9 Net Neutrality’s virtuous circle (CC — BY @Juanof9)

Taking action

Fig 10 — The neutrality Pyramid (CC-BY @juanof9)

Silos are socially inefficient but continue to exist because they allow big companies to ensure we don’t leave their walled gardens.

Justice & participation. ICTs & Data. Affiliate @BKCHarvard. Alumni: @oiiOxford & @blavatnikSchool . Chevening Scholar. Views=personal. Here-> open discussion.