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Social media services today: The era of anti-preservationism, social regulation and cultural imperialism
Date written: 2022/12/26

"Woah, getting spicy there already!", some of you might say, especially those coming from Twitter. Yes, the content you'll be seeing here will be far different from that which you see on that profile. There are multiple reasons for this, which I'll try to outline in this entry. But for starters, let's outline the environment we're in today and why there are several massive problems that impact both our online life today and will negatively impact history and what the next generation will be able to learn from it.

As most of you are aware now, much of our online information exchange has ended up highly centralized. The vast majority of people are now relying on a handful social media services like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, arguably YouTube as well. These services share several traits in common:

In other words, if you want to be heard by any audience of significant size, these are your only options. "Yeah, so?", you might ask. Well, not counting the fact that monopolies fucking suck for everyone, you don't really have a free voice on these platforms. On paper, you're gagged by inconsistently defined Terms of Service and narrow-sighted human moderation. It goes deeper than that, of course. There's also dreadful machine learning algorithms playing the part of moderators and contextualizers, a whole other can of worms that deserves it's own blog entry (in the meantime, look up the BeCandid Controversy). Getting a bit sidetracked now, so I better go over the things I defined in the title.


This one might not ring as many alarm bells as the other two, but for me personally it is a massive problem that needs highlighting. See, we're dealing with a bit of a crisis in the world of retro computing, as do other retro multimedia scenes: a rapid loss of history. Physical media is rotting away, digital media links are dying, and on top of that.... companies are aiding in the destruction. I'm sure most of you are aware of the horrendously outdated Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). It is already used to wreak havoc in modern day media criticism, but it's also doing immense damage when it comes to vintage media preservation. Even for data that is not being commercially sold, companies will fight tooth and nail to prevent any kind of unauthorized redistribution.

This is an area I can directly speak on from experience. Earlier this year I've been struck with a DMCA by Team Shanghai Alice for my work on the Touhou PC-98 Ultimate Collection. These games have not been commercially available or supported since 2002, something that they themselves acknowledged in the DMCA notice, and yet they're still fighting to prevent any kind of redistribution. Admittedly it was my mistake for relying on GitHub Pages, a US-based webpage hosting service, for something like this instead of trying to go more independent like I have with LainNet recently, but alas my goal was to provide an end-user experience as convenient as possible. Peer-to-peer distribution would get in the way of that, plus this happening to PC-98 game distribution was entirely unprecedented. Nothing of this sort for PC-98 games has been done before, and in fact companies like AliceSoft have offered their PC-98 catalogue as freeware for years now!

So how does this tie into social media? First of all, it's the only viable way of advertising today. If you want people to be aware of your distribution page, you gotta lead them to it through platforms where you can have the biggest outreach. Discord and Twitter are the only platforms where I have any significant outreach, and even then I still needed signal boosting assistance from friends. Naturally, since businesses also have a presence on these platforms, they too will hear about it rather quickly. Second, it gets worse for people who directly host their works on the aforementioned services. They're essentially obliged to make it as easy and quick as possible for companies to strike down anything they deem unpleasant thanks to the DMCA. YouTube is infamous for this, through a combination of their ContentID system and extremely company-sided approach to handling copyrighted content. Not that long ago we suffered the loss of AccelJoe's channel, which was pretty much the only one putting serious work into sharing Japanese PC music from the 80s and 90s, all thanks to a handful of copyright strikes.

Social regulation and cultural imperialism

This part I expect will hit a nerve with some people from North America. I know, the truth hurts. Remember those bulletpoints I outlined earlier? Here's where they all play a part. In recent years there's been a push to... sanitize the Net. This is all being done under the veil of "fighting hate speech", "providing safe environments where discriminated communities can prosper" and god knows whatever else I'm hearing. On paper that doesn't immediately sound bad, does it? Sounds like a good cause to fight for on a moral level. Well dear reader, it's all bullshit.

What this all really is is an excuse for Silicon Valley to impose their cultural standards on the whole world. It fucking worked... and why wouldn't it? Where else are you gonna go, make your own website? Silly boomer, the free Web is dead. You either join the social media networks and play by their rules, or be in your own little obscure sandbox shouting into the void like a schizo, like I'm doing right now! Think about it, we come from different parts of the world, in which we live in and grow up with different societal norms and cultures shaping us into what we become. Naturally, when you connect the whole world, there's gonna be ideological incompatibilities. Don't get me wrong, I believe that it's our duty to look past our differences and find ways of forming friendly connections in spite of our origins. However, we've made the massive mistake of letting the United States define the rules of online communications for us. Anybody spending a good amount of time online soon finds themselves completely incapable of escaping controversies and tensions originating from the US. Now we're even expected to express opinions on matters we might not even fully understand, or risk being labeled as enemies. Nevermind the fact that we also have to deal with tensions within our own countries, but you won't find the world speaking about those at large. America first, amirite?

In conclusion

What was this whole banter for, you might wonder. Truth be told, living in fear of ostracization has been seriously eating away at my sanity and went against my personal moral code. I've promised myself that I'd keep my mouth shut about topics of this sort on Twitter because not only do the extremely tight character limits make it obnoxiously difficult for one to express themselves, but also I know full well what would happen if I said anything even remotely similar to what I've previously outlined. Mentally, I wasn't prepared for it.

However, it feels more liberating when posting stuff on what are essentially exclusively my own terms. Anything written here does not make me automatically responsible on other sites, and I can write my thoughts in as much detail as I please, letting me make sure I don't get misinterpreted. It's also much easier to navigate than clicking a new link every 240 letters at a time.

Is this gonna bite me in the ass? Probably, but the less I worry about it, the more at ease I'll be.