TECHNOLOGY: How To Fight Deplatforming: Decentralize

Does America need a Reality Czar? That was New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose's suggestion for how the Biden administration could help solve the so-called "reality crisis" facing the country. 

The chaotic events of the January 6 Capitol riots marked the beginning of a new era of online content moderation. Not only did every major social media company kick Trump off their platforms, but Amazon Web Services, which owns about a third of the global cloud storage market, evicted the Twitter competitor Parler, and Apple and Google removed it from their app stores. Parler, which had signed on more than 13 million users, announced its relaunch on February 16.

Both Democrats and Republicans want Washington to have more influence over how big tech companies operate. There is a bipartisan push to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, known as the internet's First Amendment. Repealing Section 230 would give the government more power to hold social media companies liable for the content that appears on their platforms. 

President Biden has said he supports repealing Section 230. During an interview with then-candidate Biden, The New York Times's editorial board called the regulation foundational to the modern internet. Biden responded, "That's right. Exactly right. And it should be revoked."

But the great deplatforming of 2021 has also energized the movement to build a new, radically decentralized internet that would allow users to escape whatever form the Reality Czar takes. Many of the projects in this space are trying different approaches to solving the same set of problems, such as how to give individuals control over their own digital identities, and how to store data in the cloud so that it can't be controlled or accessed by a large company subject to political pressure from the state.