The Search and Social Media Corporations that Control Our Lives

Search Engine and Social Media Corporations now dominate the Internet. They have been expanding control over what we search, how we see content and news, and how we share our own content via search engines and the social media websites they run.

I started building websites for companies in 1999 as a young software engineer, so I have seen the Internet and search evolve over time. What we have today is truly frightening and must be stopped. The takeover of what was promised as a free and economically viable World Wide Web is now threatened by the Internet Coporations who now control it for profit at our expense.

It was in 2001 that I saw the first “web logs” take shape at the hands of smart young men online….sites that would later form the basis for Facebook and many types of “social sharing” sites. I knew instinctively this term “social media” was a farce, as you could not (and still cannot) truly know another human being by pixels and text.

Something vile and unnatural seemed destined for the term “social media” from its earliest days. Something that threatened our content, our privacy, even our money was hidden in what corporate America would do with social media and biased search of website content these companies did not own.

In 2001 I watched early search engines like Lycos, AltaVista, Yahoo and others fade into the background as a subtly simple but massive Google search engine slowly begin to consume all the advertising revenue online and take over modern text indexing and search as we now know it.

As a search corporation, Google now dominates the Internet. There is no doubt they run a powerful search engine, one we would all miss should it disappear. The same applies to Facebook…where would we turn for sharing of content should its massive 1.9 billion members suddenly disappear and we find ourselves back to emailing family photos, running primitive AOL chat lines, or sharing posts on primitive sites like the now defunct geocities like we did in the 1990’s? 

You see…we are utterly dependent on a handful of multinational corporations for search and social media now. But at what cost have we let these corporate Giants now control how we search and socialize on the Internet? What have we given up to feed these corporate beasts?

One of the things I used to write and blog about back in 2001 in the early days of social web logging and search was the fear that our “content” as a Web User would not be truly ours when posted on these portals, but given to these corporate giants in return for their ability to make money off it at our expense.

It is then in 2003 I began to think…..what would happen if I spent a year of my life “web logging” about my family online on these sites, uploading thousands of photos and movies to one web portal, blogging about my life and career, leaving large paper trails of my views and beliefs on these sites, letting a few of these coporations extract or store my data in their relational databases, then allow them to sell my content to advertisers for money over many years?

The more I thought about that concept I expanded on it and thought about the true future of corporate controlled search and social media sharing and how that would impact the Internet. And the results were not good.

Follow my idea here as first expressed in 2003, but now realized more profoundly in 2017, and you will see what I mean…

What if billions of people in the future spent every day of their waking life uploading content to these corporate sites, creating video, writing blogs, making music, uploading books and films, and sharing information online so Google could index it and Facebook could store and display it, then both corporations turn around and sell our content to others to make money? What are the real implications of that?

Think about this…

1. If you lived 80 years and spent most of your whole life uploading photos and writing and sharing information about your life, everyday of your life, to these corporate sites and never made a penny from the thousands of hours writing that content, but Facebook and Google made thousands or even millions from 80 years of your hard blogging and uploading labor, how would you feel about that? A bit like an indentured servant?

2. What if you also were never allowed to own that content, the corporations did until the end of your life and beyond, AND they could filter, change, or erase your life and the content behind it as they liked before and after your death? How much control does that imply?

3. Now finally ask yourself, what if worst of all they sold that content back to you over the span of those 80 years of your life in the form of product advertising, services you buy from then like storage, etc. – content you slaved away at so it could be sold back to you in advertisements, products, digital content, services, etc. – and your own content actually cost you money but made them millions?

In that scenario would you agree such a world is truly enslaved, economically, socially, emotionally, physically to these corporations? Worst of all, would you agree the nature of this evil digital corporate system is not fully known, seen, or understood by anyone yet?

Everythinb I just described is all true today! The nightmare of it is with us now!!!

I ask each of you: How many hours a day do you post your life’s work, your content, your personal photos FOR FREE on these sites and make nothing from it but burn away hours and weeks and months and years of your life creating free content for them? Are you ok with that fact, ok with the exposure of your personal content and lives for sale to the highest bidder, ok with them selling ads to you based on your own content and that of others?

What if YOU could make money off your content, made every penny they make off your video, images, text, and content? Why do we make almost nothing now from content we create everyday while they make billions?

Ask yourself this: What if every poor child or adult in every poor country that uses these services could raise their standard of living selling their own content online rather than giving it away for free to these corporations? Ask yourself these crucial questions because they have far-reaching implications as the world moves from an industrial economy to an information economy. These poor children certainly would benefit more from the ability to prosper from the content they post on these corporate sites now than ever before in history.

The Corporations say, well, hey no one is pulling your arm. We also don’t work for free or to give away free services for free. They would argue, it is expensive running these websites and search engines. You also get free services for your content. That’s all true.

But I ask in return, why do we even have these coporations doing this? Why don’t we have other options online for sharing content? Why are we controlled by these huge private, investor-controlled search and social media Corporations? Why don’t we ever make “real” money from our own content?

You see, that is the source of the problem. Corporations run our Internet for profit. A handful of rich people now control our content and we are in servitude to supplying them the content they need to make money off our backs globally.

Do you now see the problem with this Internet model?

This is why I realized almost 20 years ago as a young web developer this was going to eventually end badly….this corporate advertiser-driven model we have for the Web. It would make a few people rich and enslave the rest of us….millions of us….billions of us and leave us as servants creating content with nothing to show for it but addiction to an Internet and Social Media platform that we cannot control and would never ever benefit from.

What then is the answer to BREAK the corporate monopoly?

The answer is simple. We MUST create a global, free, open source, advertising-free, decentralized Search Engine platform anyone can add or participate in, something run by large democratic bodies of people, standards bodies, or United Nation funded organizations for the benefit of all Humanity.

We must have a free open social media sharing system that allows all information to flow freely, and which allows both free and open sharing of our own content with the added benefit we own our own data forever, and have the ability to sell that data in many forms as we so choose.

Is such an idealized platform or global new Internet design possible? Yes, if we all organize globally to build it. It will take money. It will take leadership. But that will require we phase out the “corporate model” for search and social media first then move to the open model afterwards.

What’s the end-game if we don’t? One is privacy which will be dead forever as corporations now sell and expose our lives to not just other companies or bidders, but hackers, governments, and insidious groups like insurance who can use it to manipulate fees and risks we pose. If we don’t develop alternative ways to make money from our data and control our content we will not just lose potential income but will become permanent servants and tools to corporations like Google and Facebook. By continually uploading data to their servers we are living life in a pattern as free unemployed “content servants” chained to servitude to them and unable to break free of their failed income model.

I will be discussing this in more detail in the years ahead. Unfortunately, I too am using these corporate platforms. To not use them without viable alternatives to share my content beyond my website means I’m stuck in the empty backroads of the Internet. Such is the dominating power these platforms now have over content holders.

But I will be describing ways to break free of these models in subtle and insidious ways that allow you to at least own your content again and separate your data from their relational database systems. This is my first call to action. The second would of course would be to spread awareness. The third would be the design and construction of a truly managed but fully funded, open source global search engine and search model tied to social media sharing.

To end this lecture for now, my first and best advice to “take some control” of your data and content is to do the following:

1. Buy your own web domain name now. Many websites sell these. In my case I own many domains. You can buy these for 10 years and renew them. They are pointers to your content and website online which you control and own.

2. Buy and manage your own Website connected to your web domain. My main hosting account is here at www. Buying your own hosting means you have a website with software to store and display for content online 24/7. It’s cheap and in some cases free. And with web tools like WordPress that come for free with these sites, it is very easy to post blogs, images, and videos on these sites. You then become your own “content island” separate from say Facebook.

3. Post all your content on this website over many years of your life and use it as the centralized hub of information and content about you, your articles, views, images, and videos. In this way you now own and control how content is shared about you online. Google search and other still control who sees your website and content but at least it’s yours.

4. Link as much of this content to Facebook, Google, other social media sites, blogs, and online corporate portals. In so doing you now track as much as possibly their advertising revenue to info and products back to your website, which over time might be able to sell its own digital products or impressions.

By doing these steps you are now moving content AWAY from corporation search and social media and back towards you!

More on this topic in the months and years ahead. Your opinions matter, too. So feel free to share your views.

Together we can start raising awareness of this failed Internet we have now run by greedy corporations and move in the decades ahead to a truly free Internet system that sustains all of Humanity, not a handful of rich CEO’s, investment banks, and corporate elite.

Until we break the “corporate mythology” these Internet search and social media corporations create and the seductive power they have over us, we will never be free to share our own personal content online nor ever truly own the content we create. And that’s what must change now.

– Mitchell Stokely, March 2017

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