By Larry Sanger | 25 June 2019
LARRY SANGER — On July 4 and 5 (at least one day), people with serious grievances against social media — including you? — will go on strike. You could, but obviously don’t have to, announce that you are one of the signatories of the Declaration of Digital Independence.
This means we will not use social media on those days, except to post notices that we are on strike. We’re going to make a lot of noise. Nobody will be able to ignore what’s happening. We’re going to flex our collective muscles and demand that giant, manipulative corporations give us back control over our data, privacy, and user experience.
Who: You. The more, the merrier! We’re urging you to go on strike with us. (“We” means nothing more than “all the rest of us who have serious grievances about social media—privacy, free speech, or something else.”)
What: A collective pause in our use of social media, except to post notices and memes that:
- Declare that we are on strike. Use hashtag #SocialMediaStrike.
- (Optional.) Point to a copy of the Declaration of Digital Independence (preferably, your own; see “How” below). Invite others to sign the Declaration.
- Urge others to join the strike. Ask your friends, family, and followers to sign and strike.
When: July 4 and 5. At least one day. Striking on both days is likely to be more effective.
Why: We, the strikers, urge the global developer community to perfect a new system of decentralized social media. This strike, if successful, will raise show the world — Big Tech corporations, governments, developers, and social media users — that there is a massive demand for a system in which
- Each of us individually owns our own data. Each of us individually controls it, just as we have control over our email, text messages, and blogs. It can be totally private, courtesy end-to-end encryption, or totally public; the choice is up to us.
- Social media services stop acting as silos but become interoperable. If we make a post on one service, it can appear on another service.
- Instead, social media services compete to create the best user experiences for a common pool of data.
- Social media services agree upon and use a common, universal set of standards and protocols. This is how social media should have been developed from the beginning, rather than walled off in separate, competing networks.
In this way, social media would works the way websites, email, text messages, and blog hosting and readers work: as neutral service providers.
What we hope will happen:
- Your followers will start seeing strike notices in their feeds on July 4.
- Probably, most will ignore the first messages. But more and more notices will be appear. Strikers will start calling out scabs for posting when they should be striking.
- With luck, by sometime on July 4, feeds will be absolutely flooded with strike notices.
- When that happens, the news media at all levels will have to report on it.
- Similarly, Big Social Media will have to issue statements responding to the Declaration and to any public criticisms from many quarters.
- By the end, everyone will have learned how much support there is for decentralizing social media, taking the control out of the hands of Big Social Media, and returning ownership, control, and privacy to the ordinary user.
How: It should be fairly simple:
- Optional, for those signing the Declaration:
- Make your own copy of the Declaration: If you have time, energy, and ability, make your own copy of the Declaration. (It’s Creative Commons so this is 100% OK.) I would love for there to be a million copies of this document floating around. If you agree with everything except a few points, fine: make your own edits to your copy. Note: If you do make your own edits, please list them in a Proposed Changes section. If you copy somebody else’s text, clearly link to the version you’re copying.
- Sign the declaration. Please at least sign mine. But sign lots of copies (assuming you agree with their changes); I will.
- Encourage others to do the same.
- Set up a posting bot, if available. Hopefully, a programmer or several will create bots (browser plugins or apps) you can quickly and easily set up to post notices of the strike, links, memes, etc., for you on the appointed dates. Note: I’m not responsible for anything anyone else creates. Please check out any such service’s privacy policies before using it.
- Actually go on strike. Don’t post anything on your Big Social Media accounts on July 4 and/or 5 (preferably both days), except posts of the sort described under “What” above.
- Feel free to explore alternatives on those days. Those two days would be excellent days to check out the alternative social media sites of your choice, ones that are committed to privacy, security, and free speech; please give your full attention to sites/apps that support the Declaration.
What coders can do to help:
Here are some ideas:
- Write a strike bot. This would be a browser plugin or app that posts for users every hour (say) according to their specifications.
- Organize and participate in a conversation (I won’t be organizing it myself) to get all social media apps using the same standards. Critique code, in particular on APIs and implementations of existing standards. Help place geek pressure on social networks to adopt common standards.
- Help out with open source social media projects. Lots of them can use your help. We need to make them better than the Big Social Media offerings. Working together, FOSS developers can do it!
What bloggers/webmasters of all sorts can do to help:
- Host your own copy of the Declaration.
- More generally, set up your own websites devoted to the Strike and decentralized social media. Host links to resources. Host memes and images people can share during the strike on social media.
I want this effort to be entirely decentralized. I don’t want it to be centered on larrysanger.org, which I’m using just because it’s my own site and I don’t want to set up a new one. I want it to be decentralized—centerless. So please, start something similar on your own blog.
More questions? Read the FAQ.
For a deep dive, see the list of resources.