In what appears to be a coordinated effort, Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube (and now Pinterest and LinkedIn) have removed almost all content from Alex Jones and Infowars. Jones is a conservative American broadcaster who has been widely criticized for promoting conspiracy theories. While I’ve watched some of his YouTube videos, I wouldn’t call myself a fan. What interests me is the effect that coordinated suppression may have on the alternative media.
When Napster first appeared in the 1990’s, its users began sharing music via the platform. The RIAA (recording industry association of America) attacked Napster and effectively shut it down. This led to a diaspora to other sites, which were similarly shut down, and finally to bittorrent, a system that is so distributed that to this day, the RIAA and MPAA (motion picture association of America) have been unable to effectively combat it.
Will that same thing happen to the alternative media? As the mainstream technology platforms bow to pressure to suppress the alternative media, will people turn to other channels to get this content? Will this lead to Facebook becoming the next MySpace? Will YouTube lose its dominance of the streaming video market? Will Twitter (the only mainstream technology platform that has yet to ban Jones) remain relevant?
What are the bittorrents of the alternative technology space? What makes them compelling, and what are their downsides?
Streaming video had an alternative to YouTube in vidme.com, but that platform had many of the same disadvantages to alternative media and, ultimately, failed to compete with the Google’s YouTube, which is run at a loss. The new alternative video service, BitChute.com, has several advantages. First, the website explicitly includes freedom of expression in its community guidelines. Second, by using bittorrent technology, BitChute controls its costs and becomes more resilient.
Facebook has several interesting competitors. Minds.com is a social media site that promotes free speech and has adopted crypto-currency as a means of monetizing content. Akasha is an even more radical platform. It is completely distributed, with all content stored encrypted in the interplanetary file system (IPFS) and meta data is distributed to all users via the Ethereum block chain. This makes it essentially uncensorable, but it is quite slow and requires you to run an application. Steemit is another blogging/social networking site that uses its own crypto-currency.
Twitter has a competitor in Gab.ai. Gab has had some problems, including having their app banned from the Apple store. On the other hand, they support free speech.
Will these alternative media platforms gain a significant share of the market? If the mainstream platforms continue to ban content, I think it’s a strong possibility. YouTube in particular, with their policy of demonetizing (blocking advertising of) videos on many channels, forcing content creators to rely on patrons, take on sponsors, and sell merchandise to earn a living, seem ripe for an exodus. Purging channels like Infowars may be the catalyst that makes this happen.