I’m a fan of decentralized networks. I use Mastodon instead of Twitter, I use Pixelfed instead of Instagram, and I use IRC and XMPP instead of Whatsapp. I’m very well satisfied with my experience. I don’t feel lack of any social network or messaging system.

I respect myself, therefore I don’t use proprietary apps and networks. If someone needs to contact me or have a digital social relationship with me, then that person can start a respectful relationship by using free software and privacy-minded networks.

However, I should mention that not all of Fediverse or decentralized services/products are good. For example, some programs/networks don’t have a good user experience.

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There are some social networks I use and there are some I don’t use, for reasons. Some social networks are very good core but they don’t suit the standards I believe an online social networking service should have.

For example, I believe Twitter has a brilliant idea behind it but I don’t use it, because there are more factors than the idea behind the network that matters when we are considering joining a social network.

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This is an email message I just received. Autistici/Inventati, one of the very great privacy-advocating collectives is now 20 years old. A very happy birthday to you A/I. We wish you a great 20 more, and more.

Twenty years have passed since the birth of Autistici/Inventati. Twenty years have passed since we ventured down this quite complicated road. Like any respectable end of the year, it is again time for evaluations. End of the year balances are mostly political rather than financial for us, although we cannot deny that we will, as always, ask you to support us economically.

Twenty years ago nobody did what we do. And even today nobody does it the way we do it. This is important to remember because 20 years of work to keep our project alive and functional, relying EXCLUSIVELY on the efforts of the volunteers involved and the spontaneous donations from our users deserve special attention.

Today is very easy to obtain an e-mail address or the space to host a website for free, and we know that mailing lists are mostly replaced by the millions of group chats provided by the various instant messaging platforms. But we think that today it is much more difficult to find a free space where is possible to organize alternatives to the existing. Without alternative places there are no alternative thoughts, without spaces where it is possible to practice other ways of living, organize and imagine different worlds, it is not possible to change the existing one.

2020 has not only been cruel in terms of loss of human lives, it also brought greater difficulty in imagining and practicing change. We do understand how difficult it is to think about change when one has to come to terms with the sudden psychological in as much as social isolation we came to notice , that we recently came to notice. We have been locked down and wedged between the responsibilities towards others and the emergency that leaves no room for alternatives. Some think that 2020 has only actually made more evident how the struggles for an alternative world have become marginal. But the world will also exist in 2021, probably not very differently from 2020, and we will still need to think and practice something completely different.

As always, we do not think that this is possible in spaces that are commodified, monitored, profiled and constantly abused by those who profit from our every word and our every byte. We don’t believe in narratives condemning collectively responsible behavior either: as if it were some sort of weakness or a moniker of slavery. As if the logic of self-interest, laziness or indifference could communicate any sort of value, ie. self-determination, supposedly to be reclaimed, precisely when biology reminds us that no one is free unitl everyone is free.

The bitterness we feel this year isn’t in fact just related to the digital realms. Obviously we feel a strong need for more solidarity: we think that solidarity is unfortunately often lacking both in the priorities that determine the evolution of the real world situation, and in the narrative that derives from it. To say that never like this year there has been a stronger need for solidarity is stating the obvious, but we still feel the need to say it, not only in words, but also with our work, which in 2020 has often had the objective of answering the new needs that the emergency has brought up to the surface.

A piece of work is in fact up to us, to try to provide even more appropriate, effective and usable tools. Coherently with the needs that emerged in 2020, we have added two new services:

https://vc.autistici.org – a jitsi instance for videoconferencing
https://live.autistici.org – a live video streaming platform

They do not require authentication and do not log your data, a combination of features we believe can help change the common attitude we see in relating to technology today.

But outside the digital sphere, practicing change is also a social and common exercise, to which everyone must contribute individually. We have the firm intention of being there. Together.

Some wrote to us saying that the ideas we have expressed in our twenty years old, lyrical manifesto, are obsolete and “out of place” in today’s world. Quite the opposite, we think that they are still exactly the perspective that is missing today. We are not going to change our path. We intend to help change what surrounds us, together with the people around us. This is the way (cit.)

This is what we have always done and what we have always believed in. And it has never been easy. We hope to be able to do it together with the comrades who have been with us all the way here and with the many others who will join us further along the way.

If you want to be part of the next twenty years as you have been in these first twenty, you know where to find us and where to direct those who share our values: https://www.autistici.org/get_service

We take care of the work. But financial support is vital, since we only exist thanks to your donations: https://www.autistici.org/donate

The Autistici-Inventati collective
https://www.autistici.org
donations: https://www.autistici.org/donate
help: help@autistici.org

Various Google products, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and Google Calendar are facing global outage. Any service that requires a Google Account to enable features is currently down.

Google products outage picture

This is a good reason and example to get away from Google and move to a decentralized libre service such as Nextcloud. Using a libre decentralized platform prevents this kind of outages.

A decentralized service can be down too but unlike Google stuff (and similar products), if an instance goes down, only people on that instance will be affected, not the whole network.

For example, more than 2 billion people use G Suite, which includes Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, Hangouts, etc. and with this outage, all of them are unable to use these products.

But a decentralized service doesn’t affect 2 billion people at once. People use different instances on different servers and many of them can continue using their services.

And also, a decentralized libre service gives you ability to choose the server you want to run the service on, along with the option to use instances running by other people. This way, you can make sure the server won’t surprise you or put you in trouble.

Move to decentralized libre services so you don’t face outages and responsibilities like this again.

One thing that drives me crazy is that it is assumed that everyone has one of those surveillance machines named mobile phone. Many online products or even offline ones are asking for a mobile phone number that receives text messages and can be used for digital communication therefore surveillance.

And most of those services, products, or places don’t work or compute when one does not have that machine.

In a result of that, now many people have a mobile phone carrying around. Simply because life is now dependent on this machine, people are facing this kind of surveillance.

We worry about Big Tech and their friends putting us under their surveillance domain but many don’t even think about surveillance using sim cards or cellular data.

Many of us simply don’t have a choice. You see, if we don’t carry a mobile phone with us, life becomes almost impossible so we decide (or forced) to have one. Now, the bigger injustice, the bigger problem is that many companies are now selling a small computer as a mobile phone and they name it smart phones.

Smart phones are simply computers in a smaller form. Our desktop computer can do many things but this kind of computers, named smart phones, give us ability to do our computing and at the same time have a cellular connection and use it as a phone.

What makes it not good is that almost all of these smart phones are running nonfree software. A free (as in freedom) software (or software libre) lets you to be in control of your own computing. A libre program does what you want, however, a nonfree program forces you to do what it wants.

Being forced to have a mobile phone to be able to live your normal life is injustice and being forced to own a so-called smart phone makes it worse. One should be able to live one’s life without being forced to be under surveillance. One should be able to receive services without one’s privacy and freedom (both digital and non-digital) being violated. One should be able to live without this injustice being forced to one.

If Facebook was around around 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads and various posts on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’. If Facebook were around during 1940s, Facebook would allow Germany to publish videos and posts of their propaganda freely, claiming that world leaders engage in discourse with each other, as well as their constituents on their platform.

Happily, Facebook were not present during that time and Hitler is dead. However, we have Trump now. We have many dictators, fascists, neo-Nazis, racists, discriminators and their supporters present at the time who use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to promote their corruption and their disgusting views.

We see they support and help regimes like China. They help censorship and they follow orders to suppress views. They don’t have problem with racism, as long as it doesn’t hurt their benefit.

We see Google is helping censorship against Uighurs. We see TikTok is censoring critics. We see Apple and Amazon helping dictators against people. There are thousands of cases like these.

This is what we’re facing. A corrupt company that values benefit more than anything, even human beings. They put on masks and pretend to be a friend while behind the mask is their ugly face trying to take away whatever you have and exchange them with money and more corrupt power.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a new antitrust lawsuit against Facebook claiming that it behaved in a monopolizing manner, TechCrunch has reported.

According to the report, both the FTC and various attorneys general have filed two individual but similar suits at the federal and state levels regarding the same matter.

Both allege that Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram fall under monopolizing and anti-competitive behavior by effectively shutting down nascent competitors, and that the tech and social media giant used it platform to prevent the growth of emerging companies by leveraging access to it.

This would somehow increase competition and also reduce Facebook’s power/position for lobbying and it’s good. However, to make Facebook respect people and other companies, we should take away their surveillance power and make them respect people’s privacy and freedom.

Timnit Gebru says she was fired after sending an internal email that accused Google of “silencing marginalized voices”, according to a report by BBC.

Timnit Gebru studies the effects of AI systems. After she refused to retract a paper by order of management, she got fired. The paper draws negative conclusions about Google’s textual machine learning.

Hundreds of colleagues have signed a letter accusing the search giant of racism and censorship, while Twitter users have rallied around Gebru using the hashtag #BelieveBlackWomen.

I don’t think Google fired her because of her skin color, race, or gender; rather fired her to suppress the truth about its technologies. Gebru is a well-respected researcher in the field of ethics and the use of artificial intelligence.

She is well-known for her work on racial bias in technology such as facial recognition, and has criticized systems that fail to recognize black faces.

Google’s actions amid workplace organizing efforts, including the high-profile firings of several employees, were illegal violations of the National Labor Relations Act, federal regulators said this week, Ars Technica has reported.

The National Labor Relations Board filed a formal complaint [PDF] against Google Wednesday, alleging that the company has been “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees” to interfere with their protected concerted activity—workplace organization rights that are protected by law.

Google fired several different workers late last year amid apparent efforts to organize company employees. Four former employees who were let go last November—Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, Rebecca Rivers, and Sophie Waldman—filed complaints with the NLRB almost exactly a year ago alleging that Google’s “draconian, pernicious, and unlawful conduct” was an unlawful attempt to prevent workplace organizing.

A few weeks later, another former Google employee, Kathryn Spiers, was fired after she developed a tool for the company’s internal build of Chrome that notified Google workers of their legal rights to organize. Spiers, too, filed a complaint with the NLRB claiming that Google’s retaliation against her was unlawful.