The centralization of the Internet has become a hot topic of discussion with regard to governmental security, personal privacy, how unverified news can be spread around the world, and more. Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey went on social media Saturday afternoon and admitted some of the liabilities may be his fault.
“[The] days of usenet, irc, the web…even email (w PGP)…were amazing,” Dorsey tweeted. “[Centralizing] discovery and identity into corporations really damaged the internet. I realize I’m partially to blame, and regret it.”
The Internet was initially developed with a decentralized model in the 1960s to buttress information transfer in the event of a nuclear attack. But the decentralization of the Internet, when coupled with its adoption by private citizens and organizations for their own uses, led to a “digital Wild West” of sorts.
Imagine numerous virtual fiefdoms without any kind of oversight with regard to content or regulation amongst their channels. That also introduced the growing problem of finding people with the technical skill to code across these channels, especially as the tech exploded. So centralizing these channels was a simpler way to solve some of these issues.
But in December 2019, Dorsey himself tweeted about the need for the Internet to move back to a decentralized model. And seven months later, two teens and a 22-year-old exploited the key weakness of a centralized model when they hacked Dorsey’s platform.
The trio imitated the accounts of personalities like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Kanye West, and Elon Musk to swindle more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in 2020. According to the New York Times, the Secret Service actually retrieved seven times that amount from the three men a few months earlier.
“[Mastermind Graham Ivan Clark is] a 17-year-old kid who apparently just graduated high school,” State Attorney Andrew Warren of Clark said at a July 31 news conference, per the Tampa Bay Times. “But no make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before.”
Elon Musk, currently the world’s richest man, was already one of Twitter’s most followed profiles and was open about his frustrations with the platform in the past. Musk called Twitter “the de facto public town square” in a March 26 post and alleged that its ability to censor or promote whom it wanted “fundamentally undermines democracy. He later said he was even toying with the idea of opening his own Twitter-like platform.
And now Musk — one of those persons whose account was hacked as well as the world’s richest person — has become Twitter’s biggest shareholder. The 50-year-old South African entrepreneur now has a 9.2% stake in Twitter, and Wedbush Managing Director Dan Ives said Musk’s move was “just the appetizer… This is just the start of a broader strategic focus of Twitter, whether it’s changing the slate, changing the management team, or ultimately a buyout.”