DEF CON 31 - An Audacious Plan to Halt the Internet's Enshittification - Cory Doctorow

cross-posted from:

The enshittification of the internet follows a predictable trajectory: first, platforms are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die. It doesn’t have to be this way. Enshittification occurs when companies gobble each other up in an orgy of mergers and acquisitions, reducing the internet to “five giant websites filled with screenshots of text from the other four” (credit to Tom Eastman!), which lets them endlessly tweak their back-ends to continue to shift value from users and business-customers to themselves. The government gets in on the act by banning tweaking by users - reverse-engineering, scraping, bots and other user-side self-help measures - leaving users helpless before the march of enshittification. We don’t have to accept this! Disenshittifying the internet will require antitrust, limits on corporate tweaking - through privacy laws and other protections - and aggressive self-help measures from alternative app stores to ad blockers and beyond!

blindsight ,

And we’re basically entirely dependent on the EU to enact laws to enforce the interoperability required to reduce switching costs to allow for reverse network effects to break up tech/platform monopolies.

Regulatory capture is so deeply entrenched in American politics that it will take decades to unwind.

ripcord , avatar

What was the prompt?

PeepinGoodArgs ,

Here’s an AI outline because this was actually a good talk:

  • How Platforms Die

    • The speaker introduces the concept of platform decay or “enshittification” and how it leads to the death of internet platforms.
      • He defines platforms as firms like Uber, Amazon, and Facebook that connect users and business customers.
    • He outlines a 3-stage process called enshittification where platforms:
      • Are initially good to users
      • Abuse users to benefit business customers
      • Eventually abuse business customers to only benefit shareholders
    • This results in the platform becoming a “pile of shit” that dies.
  • Facebook Case Study

    • He uses Facebook as a case study of enshittification’s 3 stages:
      • Initially attracted users by promising privacy protections and custom feeds
      • Then broke promises and sold user data to advertisers and flooded feeds with publisher content
      • Finally, reduced value to users and fees for publishers to extract all value for shareholders
        • This led to an angry user base and brittle equilibrium
  • Causes of Enshittification

    • Lack of Competition
      • Weak antitrust enforcement has allowed consolidation across industries
      • Companies can use predatory pricing to undercut competitors
      • Mergers eliminate competition
        • Example: Google relying on acquisitions rather than in-house innovation
    • Unrestricted "Backend Tweaking"
      • Tech platforms control the algorithms and systems behind their products
      • They can arbitrarily change these to alter user experiences
        • e.g. Facebook reducing visibility of publisher content in feeds
      • Done without transparency, oversight or accountability
    • Bans on Reverse Engineering
      • Laws like DMCA 1201 and CFAA criminalize circumventing DRM and terms of service
      • Makes it illegal to reverse engineer platforms to enable interoperability
      • Tech companies use IP laws to prevent modding and adversarial interoperability
        • e.g. Apple using IP laws to prevent iOS modding
  • Solutions

    • Strengthen Antitrust Enforcement
      • Block anti-competitive mergers
      • Break up existing tech giants
    • Pass Privacy, Labor and Consumer Protection Laws
      • Comprehensive federal privacy laws with private right of action
      • End worker misclassification through gig economy
      • Apply consumer protection standards to platforms
    • Allow Adversarial Interoperability
      • Roll back laws criminalizing modding, reverse engineering
      • Use government procurement to incentivize open ecosystems
      • Appoint special masters to oversee platform legal threats
    • Keep Interoperators in Check
      • Bind interoperators to the same privacy, fair trading and labor laws
      • Determined through democratic process vs corporate policy
  • Conclusion

    • We need to prepare and spread these policy ideas to capitalize on the next crisis
    • Efforts are underway to enable a better internet through this approach
laenurd , avatar

Out of interest - which tool(s) did you use to generate this outline?

PeepinGoodArgs , I took the transcript of the video and asked for an outline using a prompt I usually use for outlining textbook chapters lol.

ChrisLicht ,

Claude is my boy. So pleasant.

GreenMario ,

Oh we have to fix the laws? Yep this is a non starter.

Best bet is to just create Internet2.

beejjorgensen , avatar

The best idea I saw in his book in this regard was to have the government require open specs and interoperability for all government contracts.

beejjorgensen , avatar

Also remember that companies like Google are working hard to make it impossible to create anything outside of the walled garden.

viking ,

Internet2 actually has existed since 1997. It’s like a series of private connections between universities.

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