What is the Fediverso, the escape route from the power of Big Tech

What is the Fediverso, the escape route from the power of Big Tech

A free, decentralized and open space, where data is in the hands of users and not large platforms.

It was the initial promise of the web. A free place to connect to discuss, get informed, without abuse, without censorship, where everything responds to democratic principles. But, as Paul Valery said, today the future is no longer what it once was. The promises were broken. In the peripheries of the web, however, they resist. Beyond the confines of the mainstream platforms managed by Big Tech there is a free, decentralized, open space. Is called February, and even if we haven’t figured it out yet, we need a lot. We talked about it with Claudio “Vecna” Agostihacker, media activist and founder of Tracking Exposedan organization that analyzes the influence dimensions of algorithms.

Start from here. From the algorithms, they are neither good nor bad but they can be dangerous.

The algorithm is an invisible power. It can be a cage or a useful filter. Every day we leave digital traces that are analyzed by algorithms. Algorithms that are in the hands of large platforms. The economic model on which they are based is to collect as much information as possible and then resell it. The problem is that our data is used in an instrumental way by the platforms that belong to the Big Tech. Algorithms are not evil.

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So how can we protect our data?

A fairly simple way is compartmentalization, for example isolating Facebook in a specific browser, so it cannot communicate and exchange cookies with other sites. If you can’t help but use Google, for example, you can at least try to show them only a small portion of your searches. Diversify the tools we use. It is a matter of habit. However, the solutions cannot be solely technological, compartmentalization is a temporary antidote to those who are abusing our rights.

However, it is difficult to understand what rights we are giving up.

Yes. The architecture of the platforms hinders the exercise of the right. Infinite clicks, complex interfaces. We need simpler, faster and more transparent procedures. But obviously it is not in their interest to adapt them. You have to write e-mails to the platforms to know what data is being processed. Many often go unreported. Complain to the Privacy Guarantor, ask to enforce your rights, and then monitor whether or not there have actually been any changes.

But that’s not enough.

No, and indeed there is an alternative to all of this.

It is the Fediverse. A decentralized digital space where users have control over their data. The servers are independent and are called instances, the software is open source and the protocols follow an open standard.

Help me understand better.

So, on the Fediverso there are the “good” twins of all platforms. For example Mastodon similar to Twitter, Friendica to Facebook, Pixelfed to Instagram, Peertube Youtube and so on. Why good? First of all they are federated servers, therefore free, they do not belong to any company, therefore they do not have a profit logic. None of these platforms are based on recommendation algorithms, there are no promotional suggestions or marketing purposes. They just want to bring people together and communicate.

Claudio “Vecna” Agosti, hacker, media activist and founder, in 2012 of the Hermes Center for human rights on the net, and in 2016 of Tracking Exposed, an organization that analyzes the influence of algorithms.

Claudio “Vecna” Agosti, hacker, media activist and founder, in 2012 of the Hermes Center for human rights on the net, and in 2016 of Tracking Exposed, an organization that analyzes the influence of algorithms.

You also said that protocols follow an open standard.

Yes. In the Fediverso there are no enclosed gardens, everyone speaks the same language and communication is open on all platforms. For example, I can safely follow user content even if I am not registered on the server where they were published.

Do all these features allow you to have greater control over the data?

Of course, first of all because it is decentralized, everyone can manage everything independently. And then no one has an interest in collecting your data from the moment it is not needed. They don’t have to be sold, analyzed, or systemized to make money.

And could the Fediverso really become the new internet?

Should. But there are obstacles. Most people are not even aware of the risk they run by giving their data in the hands of big platforms, how can they look for an alternative? You choose something different when you know it brings you an advantage. It will be a challenge but we must try to trigger a mass migration in the Fediverse. Certainly we need both a mobilization from below, through word of mouth, and from above. Ministries, institutions, companies should be the first to use it. Privacy Guarantors should let people know that there are ways to protect their data.

Does it also gain freedom of expression?

Yes, because there is no centralized censorship network. Everything is freer.

On the other hand, isn’t there a risk of not being able to moderate dangerous, violent, or illegal content?

This could be a problem. Being distributed in a community the sensitivity of what is allowed and what is not could be more flexible. But alternatives are already being considered. For example, Mastodon provides a set of guidelines for user conduct, and has moderators within certain servers that control the quality of the content.

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