This reminds us of the fact that this crisis is not merely caused by a virus, but that it is a crisis fueled by structural inequalities. The precariat will suffer disproportionately and will be asked, as always, to fund the bailout of private industries. This is a moment not only to support one another, but to turn this crisis into a moment of transformation. Our aim should not be to return to “business as usual,” as it the business as usual of global capitalism and growing authoritarianism that fuels this crisis in the first place. Now is the time to organize and to collectivize.
It is in that light, that we decided to still launch the “Collectivize Facebook” campaign tonight in the form of this short video introduction and a website. As millions of people are in self-quarantine, our dependency on corporate social media networks grows even further. Many of you will have been confronted these past weeks with the circulation of misinformation through these networks with regards to fake coronavirus treatments and bogus safety measures – disinformation circulated through Whatsapp in particular, which is owned by Facebook. Or, on the other hand, you might have noticed the removal by Facebook of information on the coronavirus that is actually accurate. All the more reason to challenge this corporation’s current form of ownership.
“Collectivize Facebook” is a collective action lawsuit that Jan Fermon and I have been working on this past year, and that we aim to submit to the UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva, demanding the collectivization of Facebook. Our argument is that the complete absence of democratic oversight of Facebook fundamentally threatens the right to self-determination of peoples and individuals, and that as a result the 2.5 billion active users of Facebook should become its owners. So, for us, collectivization does not mean nationalization. Rather, we aim to transform Facebook into a transnational cooperative, in which members own and collectively govern the platform. Only shared ownership can socialize social media.
At present, Facebook infringes upon the right to self-determination of peoples and individuals in various ways. The corporation instrumentalizes users as neo-feudal data workers, selling our information to third parties. Facebook is used in various surveillance capacities that undermine our privacy and impacts democratic elections in disproportionate ways, of which data capture and targeted campaigns by Cambridge Analytica are a recent example. And the corporation has willfully advised authoritarian regimes such as that of Duterte in the Philippines.