On social media alternatives

Many governments are keen on reining in tech giants like Meta, Amazon, and Google. How do you think this will affect the future of the Web, if at all?

It’s harder to rein these companies in than it looks. Yes, you can—and should—split Amazon into a business that provides a marketplace for third-party sellers and a company that produces its own branded products. That proposal, made by Elizabeth Warren and others, should be easy for antitrust authorities to adopt. What’s harder is breaking up Facebook. Even if Instagram and Facebook are forced to be different businesses, what prevents them from sharing data through the vast ecosystem of third-party data brokers that exists? Simply breaking up the giants doesn’t take steps toward regulating the wild west that is data collection for ad targeting.

What would be a more profound shift is investing in alternative, smaller, community-controlled models of Internet communities. That could be done in addition to trying to break up these large companies or as an alternative pathway. For me, thinking about what social media could do if it were structured to be small and community-governed is far more radical than breaking up existing companies.

- Ethan Zuckerman at The New York Review of Books newsletter

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