Propaganda, censorship, and surveillance are attributes of the same underlying aspect: Monopoly. Centralised control.

All three problems have the same effective solution: Break up the monopolies.

Propaganda is a function of amplification, attention, audience capture, selective promotion, discovery, distraction, stealing the air supply or acquiring of any competion, and coöption of the platform. Propaganda is an inherent property of monopoly control.

Censorship and Gatekeeping are functions of excludability, audience gating, selective exclusion, obfuscation, distraction, stealing the air supply or acquiring of any competion, and, again, coöption of the platform. Censorship is an inherent property of monopoly control.

Surveillance whether of the state, capitalist, or non-state actor varieties, is a function of population and provider capture, coercion or gatekeeping of vendors and pipelines, and, again, coöption of the platform. Surveillance is an inherent property of monopoly control.

Audiences, a public, divided across independent networks, with access to different editorial selection, from different distribution networks, with access to different input message streams, are far less subject to propaganda, censorship, or surveillance.

It's importance to realise that the key is not nominal control but actual control, which may be nonobvious or unapparent to many participants. A system with appearances of decentralisation may well be centralised under the surface. Retail brand labels vs. brand ownership, or Luxottica's stranglehold over the eyeglasses market, for example, give a false sense of "consumer choice" in a case of actual tight corporate control.

And why is this? What's the fundamental connection between monopoly and control? Control is about maximising desired outcome to applied effort. In monopoly, there is a central focus of influence, the monopolist. Even a very partial controlling share can still be effective. In a first-past-the-post majority scenario such as elections or corporate share ownership, the bloc which swings the majority has control, even if it itself is numerically a minority. In markets, networks, organisations, etc., a single place to permit or deny input or output increases control by decreasing effort and increasing effect.

Shout-outs to Cory Doctorow (@pluralistic -- a great profile to follow, and, Matt Stoller (, Lina Khan (, Zephyr Teachout (, and others breaking through some seriously Borked chickenshit thinking on this topic.


Here's Bruce Schneier in 2013 drawing the same connection between , , , and (he omits , though it's all but there), as I did ... seven years later. (See thread)

Bruce Schneier, "IT for Oppression", IEEE Security & Privacy.
March/April 2013

  • What is called censorship when practiced by a government is content filtering when practiced by an organization. Many companies want to keep their employees from viewing porn or updating their Facebook pages while at work. In the other direction, data loss prevention software keeps employees from sending proprietary corporate information outside the network and also serves as a censorship tool. Governments can use these products for their own ends.
  • Propaganda is really just another name for marketing. All sorts of companies offer social media-based marketing services designed to fool consumers into believing there is “buzz” around a product or brand. The only thing different in a government propaganda campaign is the content of the messages.
  • Surveillance is necessary for personalized marketing, the primary profit stream of the Internet. Companies have built massive Internet surveillance systems designed to track users’ behavior all over the Internet and closely monitor their habits. These systems track not only individuals but also relationships between individuals, to deduce their interests so as to advertise to them more effectively. It’s a totalitarian’s dream.
  • Control is how companies protect their business models by limiting what people can do with their computers. These same technologies can easily be co-opted by governments that want to ensure that only certain computer programs are run inside their countries or that their citizens never see particular news programs.

Technology magnifies power, and there’s no technical difference between a government and a corporation wielding it. This is how commercial security equipment from companies like BlueCoat and Sophos end up being used by the Syrian and other oppressive governments to surveil — in order to arrest — and censor their citizens. This is how the same face-recognition technology that Disney uses in its theme parks ends up identifying protesters in China and Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York. ...


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