How Capitalism—Not a Few Bad Actors—Destroyed the Internet

Matthew Crain in the Boston Review:

The race to commercialize the Internet is over, and advertising is the big winner. This is excellent news if you are an executive or major shareholder of one of the handful of companies that dominate the $600 billion global digital advertising economy. For almost everyone else, advertising’s good fortunes have meant the erosion of privacy, autonomy, and security, as well as a weakening of the collective means to hold power accountable.

This is because the industry’s economic success is rooted in its virtually unrestrained monetization of consumer surveillance. Digital advertising technologies are widely distributed but largely operate under the control of a few giant companies whose monopoly-like market power has, among other ills, unleashed a wave of manipulative communication and deepened a revenue crisis among the nation’s most important journalism outlets. For the ownership class of Silicon Valley, digital advertising has been a gold mine of epic proportions. For democratic society, it is gasoline on a fire.

More here.