Moving off monopolist internet

As Tom Slee puts it in No One Makes You Shop At Walmart, (and I think either Zephyr Teachout or David Dayen, or both, explain in their recent books), it’s not true that your individual interactions with monopolists matter. As a consumer, staying away from monopolists is a losing strategy. The point is democratic policymaking, not impotent boycotts. There’s a reason they’re monopolists, after all.

That said, I’m trying to slowly wean myself off the predatory internet.

Here’s my short-term plan:

  1. Set up my own domain (
  2. Set up many email addresses, each for a different way of using email. For instance: for reading newsletters, shopping@ for commerce, hello@ for correspondence, etc
  3. Set up an old-school blog (hello!)
  4. Every time I write something particularly good on FB, rewrite it slightly nicer on the blog
  5. I’ve carved out some writing explicitly for a substack: yenta!
  6. So far, my email addresses auto-forward to gmail
  7. One of these days, I’ll set up a NAS to hold all my files instead of dropbox.


  • Email: After a few years, I think I’ll be able to have straightened out these tangled threads enough to take more decisive action in sunsetting or sharply limiting my old email accounts. Before then, I hope to wean off the gmail UX for a separate inbox.
  • Files: Fingers crossed, the NAS will solve all my problems.
  • Writing: I’ve already started yenta, and will likely spin up another newsletter focused on technology & politics. (Name tbd — I’m currently leaning towards “Civil Integrity”.) I’ll opportunistically cross-post some juicy bits from the newsletter to this blog, but presumably be three different spaces.
  • Social networks: If all goes well, my friends will start getting used to corresponding via blog posts, comments, and email. I doubt that’ll happen. Instead, I’m slowly weaning myself towards Twitter + one other social network to be chosen. Clubhouse? I’ll hold my fire and try to have a lively Signal presence instead.

There are also ways that surveillance and monopolist technologies entwine themselves in your life, even when you’re not actively using them. Here’s my plan:

  • Web browsing: Firefox, firefox container tabs, firefox facebook container(!!), u-block origin, and privacy badger.
  • Reading online things: Firefox better web with Scroll. Email newsletters. Nuzzel.
  • Infra: Soon I’ll get a VPN (mozilla-branded?). I hear pi-holes are good? Looking for suggestions.
  • Maps: Apple maps for now. Don’t sign into google maps.
  • Tracking: Facebook only via a web browser. View it via safari on the iphone.
  • Chat / Video: Signal and Jitsi for now. Soon I’ll use a friend’s self-hosted Jitsi instead.

So that’s the plan right now. In short — set up a few things now, mostly dual-tracked. Patiently give myself years to mature into them, and as my use of them deepens (and others follow along) start leaning on them more heavily.

I’d ask what your plan is, and I am interested. But, in the end, the real change has to come from public policy. Don’t get too seduced by individualistic theories of social change.

PS – Don’t forget that I do (and you can) use A Few Weird Tricks to make your Twitter and Facebook experience much more pleasant. (You can even get rid of ads without an ad blocker!).


A right-libertarian case for breaking up Facebook

So, this is fun. Over the weekend, I was the featured guest on a libertarian radio show — A Free Solution, by Kevin Wilson and Larry Sharpe. We talked about breaking up Facebook, tech monopolies, surveillance, and content moderation policy. I made the best libertarian case I could for trust busting. Cited Hayek, the presidential election of 1912, and other things.

We had a wide ranging conversation. Some thumbnail ideas include:

  • Trust busting is the limited government alternative to extensive regulation.
  • Facebook is right now meddling in every election. They can’t help it, because the very fact of an algorithmic news feed (and recommended groups, and decisions where to put election integrity resources) means meddling happens trillions of times per day.
  • True patriots don’t stand for unelected dictators like Mark Zuckerberg deciding out of noblesse oblige to deign to try to protect them from foreign meddling in democracy.
  • “Facebook Jail” as worse than the DMV. A giant kafkaesque bureacracy that gets things wrong and has no scope for appeal!
  • Is Facebook biased against conservatives? I heard that it’s a very liberal company. The answer may surprise you!
  • The ad-driven internet builds a surveillance society that is horrifying. Even if you’re okay with Walmart sending targeted ads to you, remember that all that data is also being sold to the NSA (and Chinese, Russian, etc agencies).

Kevin and I go back to around 2012, when I was living in Rochester as an adult. I met his then-girlfriend, now-wife, when she was working for Metro Justice. I wrote People-Powered Rochester in the MJ offices, sitting right next to her!

Even back then, Kevin and I got along. I think we bonded over the Restore the Fourth protests of 2013 and 2014. He’s always struck me as a real, principled libertarian. I’ve asked him for the hot takes on LP politics, and what the Trump era exposed about the libertarian movement. (While he’s a fan of Justin Amash, he definitely agrees with this famous Thomas Massie take). I donated to his run for congress in 2020, and urged my friends and family to vote for him. (The only LP candidate I have ever backed, to my knowledge).

So, it was a friendly interview. I really enjoyed it! Kevin was a gracious host. The format of the interview (radio show, with predefined slots of time) was a little frustrating — as soon as I felt we were ready to get deep into a topic, we’d start over. And the pacing felt rather fast. But it was fun, and I think I did a good job representing the ideas.

You can listen to the show here.

(This should be an embed)

And the bonus (runoff) conversation that continued after the show officially ended:

(This should be an embed)

I really enjoyed it! It was a fun intellectual exercise and a free-flowing conversation. Thank you to Kevin for having me on. Highlight of my week.

(And I think I’m really good at it. Got a podcast or radio show? Have me as a guest!)