The Enclosure of the Surface Web
In British history, the Enclosure was the process during which English landowners fenced off their properties, thereby effectively terminating the collective access to lands that were considered the “common land”. The process ultimately kickstarted the British Agricultural Revolution, but that is another story.
What we are witnessing today, unfortunately, as silent as it is relentless, is a similar process on the so-called “surface web”, the part of the Internet where most mainstream websites are located, e.g. Facebook, news websites, Amazon, etc. It basically includes everything you can find through common search engines.
Apparently, as a Slovak journalist has been reporting lately, Facebook is the latest company to field test what is basically a digital fence and a virtual tourniquet, i.e. a function that severly restricts the type of content users can access on their feeds/homepages. What is the criterion? Of course, it’s about the moolah – at least for now. Reportedly, under this Faceook beta, non-sponsored pages do not appear in users’ feeds/homepages at all, and are only accessible if users specifically search for them using the “Explore” bar.
Naturally, a spokesman has stated that “There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore”, but Zuckerberg has been sneakily testing this beta around the world, and it is at this point clear that the capacity to control information is within his reach, if not already firmly in his grasp.
Remember how a large majority of Americans get their news from Facebook? Indeed.
Zuckerberg has a forked tongue, we all know it. It certainly would not be unexpected if suddently independent media/news sources were to be sent preposterously high bills to keep their “sponsored” status and, with it, any significant exposure.
There is no doubt that freedom of speech and freedom of thought are under siege on the surface web. We’ve discussed this a while ago in another article.
Who knows, maybe Germany’s recent demands to stamp out right-wing content were what inspired Facebook to develop appropriate tools. Supply and demand. It is clear that social media are adapting, and finding ways to develop what evidently many are ready to buy.
Going back to my introductory comparison to historical enclosures, it is clear how major internet companies are getting ready to make sure the cattle stays where it is supposed to be, and Western governments cannot wait for it. No more free grazing.
Get ready, because the ship that is the mainstream net is sinking, and soon we are going to have to abandon it.