This short essay describes the Social Media Alternatives Project (S-MAP), an online archive of materials associated with non-corporate social media sites. The essay contrasts alternative social media with corporate social media such as Facebook and Twitter. It calls for media justice organizations, including the Union for Democratic Communications, to shift some of their communication practices away from Facebook to systems such as Twister or Diaspora.
In response to the critiques leveled at corporate social media, activists and
technologists have built a wide range of sites and software packages that, in one way or another, seek to ameliorate the problems posed by Facebook et al. Some sites and systems, such as Twister, Soup, or Helloworld, have emphasized radical decentralization in the form of peer-to-peer architectures to provide social media functions (friending, sharing, liking, and so on) without relying on any central authority. Others, such as Gnu social, rstat.us, Lorea, or Diaspora, use a feder-ated structure: they allow people to join social networks on a federation of servers located anywhere there’s a willing administrator. Still other sites such as Galaxy2 and Visibility retain the centralized structure of Facebook and Twitter, but they do so with a privacy-enhancing twist: they exist on the dark web, on Tor-based hidden services or on the Invisible Internet Project’s network. Regardless of their architectural differences, these alternatives are built as critical responses to the problems of corporate social media.