What we think of as social media began as the brain child of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a part of the Department of Defense. Using grants from the NSF (National Science Foundation) and other intelligence agencies platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google were born taking the taint of "invasion of privacy" off from DARPA whose Lifelog provoked cries of outrage. By employing private companies to do their data collection, DARPA believed themselves to be off the hook and ironically enough, the very day that Lifelog was killed by the Pentagon, Facebook launched.
Without massive grants from the government, companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and others would unlikely be enjoying the equally massive market share they do today. Which begs the question, just how private are these companies? The reason that the Intelligence agencies invested in these fledgling companies was not because they want to support free enterprise, but to establish a partnership through which they could surveille the US populace (not to mention people abroad). According to an article in Quartz:
"Two decades ago, the US intelligence community worked closely with Silicon Valley in an effort to track citizens in cyberspace. And Google is at the heart of that origin story. Some of the research that led to Google’s ambitious creation was funded and coordinated by a research group established by the intelligence community to find ways to track individuals and groups online."
During the Congressional hearings whenever mass data collection is mentioned there is never a mention of the intelligence community. The excuse is invariably that the information is used to tailor advertising to the "client's" preferences. Nothing could be further from the truth. Beginning in the mid- 1990's DARPA, the CIA , NSA and NSF began to seed these nascent tech giants who were for the most part still a part of academia in places like Stanford, MIT and other colleges and universities.
"They funded these computer scientists through an unclassified, highly compartmentalized program that was managed for the CIA and the NSA by large military and intelligence contractors. It was called the Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) project." Silicon Valley and the mass surveillance of American citizens were simultaneously born... you might call them identical twins.
"MDDS was introduced to several dozen leading computer scientists at Stanford, CalTech, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, and others in a white paper that described what the CIA, NSA, DARPA, and other agencies hoped to achieve. The research would largely be funded and managed by unclassified science agencies like NSF, which would allow the architecture to be scaled up in the private sector if it managed to achieve what the intelligence community hoped for."
In other words by channelling the funds through the NSF, the public wouldn't become aware of the actual intent of the MDDS program. Although the article doesn't say so, it is highly likely that In-Q-Tel is involved as well. "The research arms of the CIA and NSA hoped that the best computer-science minds in academia could identify what they called 'birds of a feather:' Just as geese fly together in large V shapes, or flocks of sparrows make sudden movements together in harmony, they predicted that like-minded groups of humans would move together online. The intelligence community named their first unclassified briefing for scientists the “birds of a feather” briefing, and the 'Birds of a Feather Session on the Intelligence Community Initiative in Massive Digital Data Systems' took place at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose in the spring of 1995." This was how Google was born.
The purpose of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page was not only to build a search engine, but also a massive library that catalogued user searches. "The research by Brin and Page under these grants became the heart of Google: people using search functions to find precisely what they wanted inside a very large data set. The intelligence community, however, saw a slightly different benefit in their research: Could the network be organized so efficiently that individual users could be uniquely identified and tracked?"
"This process is perfectly suited for the purposes of counter-terrorism and homeland security efforts: Human beings and like-minded groups who might pose a threat to national security can be uniquely identified online before they do harm. This explains why the intelligence community found Brin’s and Page’s research efforts so appealing; prior to this time, the CIA largely used human intelligence efforts in the field to identify people and groups that might pose threats. The ability to track them virtually (in conjunction with efforts in the field) would change everything."
Fast forwarding to the present, the other social media giants have not only mirrored Google's government funding mechanism but their practices and purpose as well... all give user data to the intelligence agencies, not to mention selling it to advertisers. More than being in the social media business, they're more profoundly in the data collection and dissemination business. This creates a conflict of interest where the privacy of the users is concerned. Although they use a disclaimer, it is worded in a manner that most users are unable to understand. But the key to understanding the unethical and perhaps illegal censorship is back in paragraph one with one word... GRANTS.
Grants, regardless of what government entity disseminates them, are taxpayer money. When a company accepts taxpayer money that makes them responsible to the public... ALL of the public (even the ones they don't like). The terms of service of any one of these companies does NOT override their obligation to the taxpayers who helped fund them. In other words, the terms of service is what the public says it is, not some smug CEO with a Napoleon complex.
It's time for an internet bill of rights. It's also time for a class action lawsuit that points out how beholden these tech giants are to the taxpayers that funded their startups. I recommend reading the entire article, it's long but very informative.