Digital Squatter’s Rights

Squatter’s rights exist because land that is occupied and maintained is preferable to land that is vacant and neglected. It prevents property from falling into disuse, and keeps indigenous people from trying to reclaim land that white people have colonized and developed.

A social media platform that is populated is worth more than one that is empty. If server space were like physical space, then content creators who invest a minimum number of years developing content on a platform would acquire the right to continue doing so. Even if those content creators happen to be bigots.

YouTube just completed another round of deplatforming and demonetization, and the injustice isn’t really about censorship or political bias, but the fact that people make significant investments in their channels and come to depend on Youtube as a source of income. In California, the statute of limitations for adverse possession is five years — if someone has occupied your property for half a decade with no attempt at removal, they’ve likely put effort into maintaining the property, and have acquired the right to stay.

Remember that Iranian woman who shot up Youtube headquarters last year? The media memoryholed that incident because Nasim Aghdam didn’t fit the archetypal white male shooter. But she was pissed because Youtube arbitrarily demonetized her channels and stripped her of income with no recourse.

(In this most recent case, Steven Crowder was doing his schtick on Youtube for thirteen years before a Vox journalist threw a hissy fit to have him removed.)

The government enforces property rights — including squatter’s rights! — because property right protections encourage investment and economic growth. Unfortunately the internet is an anarchy, and there’s no one in charge to enforce digital property rights.

The equilibrium state in an anarchy is a subsistence-level free-for-all. No one tries to build a following on any platform because there’s no guarantee that the collected klout will still be there tomorrow. So stop volunteering free content to Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, et al; it only enriches the enemy. Let’s return to the good old days, when the internet was about as densely populated as woodland bears.

See Also:
A Lockean Theory of Digital Property

4 thoughts on “Digital Squatter’s Rights

  1. Unfortunately I can’t tell if it’s sarcasm or not, because of this: “Unfortunately the internet is an anarchy, and there’s no one [government] in charge to enforce digital property rights.”

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