Internet Bureaucracy

If you’ve been on the internet long enough, you’re aware of the pre- to early days of social media. It is common for many to look back into this era with fondness, as the “good old days” or “golden era” of the internet. Less censorship, less corporate bullshit, less prevailing cancer. Overall, more fun and novel times. Others look back into it with horror - mostly feigned, in my opinion – about those being nasty times.

It is often discussed why this changed, but the apparatus behind this force itself is seldom brought up as reason for driving this. I am referring to the internet bureaucracy. Web administrators, developers, and various IT roles, among others, make up a vast chunk of this bureaucracy. In 2008, when I first recall hearing of Facebook, it had 850 employees. In 2011, around the time when I was most active on it, it had 3200 employees. As of 2020, by which point I had deactivated and quit using it entirely for some years, it had 58,604 employees. [1] [2]

Twitter has grown by thousands of employees since I first used it in late 2010 – the exact numbers are a little obscure for me to find. There are other examples, but this is the general trend. Obviously, both of these companies have seen massive increases in traffic and user interactions during this time. This has made moderation almost impossible to be enforced by a human unless they have particular reason to have scrutiny focused on them (e.g. President Donald Trump). The banning of someone like him was to set a precedent, that even a private company with enough influence and repute, with media support behind it, can punish government authority. As I see it

The consequences of the changing policies of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube in particular are all very well documented. Largely automated and inconsistent enforcement that ignores context, destroying user content and attempts at archiving in the name of copyright, kowtowing to and fellating advertisers and putting your users on the backburner. They can get away with it, because they know it won’t destroy them. Their revenue stream comes from elsewhere, and users will not stop using something so well established en masse unless it kills the main purpose of the platform or there’s a “better” alternative (e.g. Tumblr and Myspace, respectively).

I have noticed similar patterns with Snapchat, which was once very simple and streamlined and designed around people sharing images between each other personally, turn into a bloated travesty. It began marketing sick trends and consumerism to impressionable young people. These platforms often attempt to emulate each other with certain futures, become more similar to each other over time. One recent example is with Twitter’s failed attempt at emulating Instagram stories, which other platforms already have. Apparently, the engagement it received was not satisfactory to them, and they removed the feature.

With the rise of social media, the internet has become a mini-government full of “institutions” which choose to collaborate or compete with each other, developing into their own trusts. Government themselves have become more administratively bloated with time in most places globally, with a vast amount of structural inefficiency and often legalized corruption present. One instance of this when governments violate your privacy and sometimes sell or distribute your personal data, depending on where you live. In that regard, they are no different from corporations, which do the same. For example, ISPs and web hosting services having alarming amounts of control over access to content and collection of personal data. The realization of this is partially what has spurred the growth of VPN usage.

Google and its ilk has a massive amount of influence, having expanded far beyond its original purpose as a search engine. This is reflected in recent journalistic pieces I have seen about what companies like Google, Apple and Facebook should be doing for democracy, which you could find online easily. Something like this would be unthinkable at the turn of the millennium and would come across as downright dystopian to some not so long ago. Why should they have a say in this? What should it look like? Why would their influence or democracy – or their notion of it, anyway – be something everyone should want?

One doesn’t need to freak about an approaching dystopia, because it is already setting and slowly normalizing itself, taking ground where ever it can, absorbing various ventures that will help to extent their influence. These mini-governments – more or less an unofficial consortium of corporations with similar objectives - operate within the confines of the law and some grey areas – and have undue amounts of control over certain aspects of the internet.

They cannot forcibly take money or come into your house like the government does and can do, so they resort to selling data, intruding into every area of your life, spying on you, all the while convincing you to like them. They pretend to be some sort of police force when they remove “hate speech” or ineffectual online “death threats” that are virtually certain to not be carried out, and pat themselves on the back for doing a good job for keeping people safe, when all they are doing is a janitorial job, but less dignified.

So-called “amplifying voices” is virtue signaling about how correct and progressive they are, by platforming approved views and dissuading and silencing others. I do not think censorship by itself is bad, as I myself would censor views that I thought were antithetical to my existence if I had the power. With that in mind, it is concerning for these companies to crown themselves as moral arbiters, especially when who they nominally answer to lacks a real moral compass as well.

It’s really irrelevant if they believe what they say or not, and I am sure on some level that they do, or repeat it enough until they can’t think otherwise. I went through a similar experience in school, when certain things were repeated to me enough, that I only ended up seriously questioning the foundation of that worldview when there were too many inconsistencies with little to justify it, and I was around people who pointed these out to me. It’s about the image they present, which is following certain social trends and being conscious in a certain way, or “woke”, as is the colloquial term. It is not so different from when governments do some sort of performative outreach or curb what those below them can or cannot do in the name of safety, while having done little to nothing to meaningfully affect it.

The policies of these companies set a precedent for many other smaller companies, who in turn strive to emulate their success. These companies themselves are often “social justice minded” and promote certain causes. They have a social agenda that goes beyond simply providing a service, and regardless if it is based in reality or not. Whether you think that is good or bad, that is the current state of things, and likely will not change in the future.

In short, the internet bureaucracy has mirrored the expansion of governmental administration. It’s a subtle expansion that few realize has taken place, but it makes perfect sense when questioning the amount of what is seen as overreach by those outside of it. A cumbersome apparatus, of which its main goal is to further its control. Both governments and companies can come up with a million and one ways to intrude on your life and insist they know what is best for you and your communities. They often have money to throw at certain problems, ignore it, or pretend it no longer exists. Even companies that have previously had little to no involvement in the internet, are interested in acquiring this data and anything that can give them a marketing advantage.

Former US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney once infamously said “Corporations are people, my friend”. It may have caused some outrage at the time, but he was right. The corporations themselves are not a living being; they are comprised of many living individuals. It is like a boogeyman that takes its hood off and is full of insects, as in that one Tim Burton movie. In such hierarchies, those of low character tend to gravitate towards the top, and get other insects on board. If you are not an insect, their objective is to make you one.

Rhetoric about “company values” is not entirely empty words; they want those below them to follow suit and become a hivemind of sorts. You ought to draw your morality from them. It qualifies as a community, but in the most perverted and rancid sort of way. It’s never about everyone in it helping each other. Just ask your average Amazon employee. These mini-governments are a swarm of mosquitoes, bleeding you dry with a thousand little bites. But this is normal. You should want this. It’s just business and they’d never do anything bad.