Law in the Internet Society
[Third Draft]

What Are We Even Talking About? That Thing We Call The Parasite

My first paper aims to conceptualize what Professor Moglen means when he says “the parasite.” The first draft of this paper improperly described the parasite as the totality of the network. This view of the parasite privileges the way we feel about the parasite versus what it is. The first draft of my paper illustrated that I did not even understand what the parasite truly is. I will use my personal experiences with maternal care and the anxieties the parasite alleviates (such as tracking Applications like Life360) to parse out what this thing is that we call “the parasite” and how it operates off human fear due to its need for human attention. Professor Shoshana Zuboff's concept of Surveillance Capitalism illustrates how the parasite uses feelings of fear and yearning to ensure its survival.

What Is The Network?

The Network is an organism made up of two types of cells, or fundamental structures, known as pipes and switches. Pipes physically carry signals (or packets of data), photons, and neurons between switches around the network. Switches, think of diamonds, determine which signals go to which network, to which pipes, and with what rules. This nervous system was meant to be flexible enough to allow everyone to learn whatever they want, wherever they want, regardless of ability to pay or government restrictions; it was meant to be a tool of knowledge.

The Parasite: A Venereal Disease that Feeds off Love

What, then, is this thing that we keep referring to as The Parasite? The parasite is not the entire nerve system of the Internet but rather some software meant or hacked to work in ways that undermine human freedom. This network has memory. This memory is a log of the addresses data is coming and going to. The Parasite consists of software like Facebook that collects this data and sells it to government agencies. This behavior turned a tool of knowledge into a surveillance tool.

The organs of this parasite are sites such as Facebook, X, and Instagram. As Professor Moglen explains, “those organs behave in a simple fashion. They metabolize human attention. . . . and they emit pheromones that stimulate more attention. This parasite has changed the human body and mind because it has altered how people relate, communicate, and behave toward each other. Before the Parasite, “[t]he nature of human contact was very different.”. Like true addicts, we have agreed to sell ourselves for our continuous fix of stimulus and response. However, we fail to see that “each one of those interactions makes a link for the machine, correlates stimulus and response. And there are the software organisms, organs of a larger thing, collecting, metabolizing that attention, and stimulating the production of more attention, which is called “engagement” in the political economy of now. ”

Even though the parasite metabolizes human attention, it is imperative to understand that it capitalizes off human fear. Applications like Tinder and Bumble help us fight against the fear of being alone; applications like X and Instagram also do this to an extent. Carrying a phone everywhere helps fight against the fear of getting lost or even kidnapped. Tracking devices and applications become reasonable to a mother who has had one of her children almost snatched off her arms. The parasite is then a venereal disease that feeds off human love and fear.

A Surveillance State Built on Maternal Love that Feeds Surveillance Capitalism

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a momma’s girl through and through. My mother left behind her other children and a Ph.D. in chemistry to clean corporate bathrooms in downtown Brooklyn for the opportunity to give me a better life. When she could no longer work cleaning, she did whatever job she could find: construction, cleaning houses, nannying, etc. She has sacrificed so much that it is hard for me to say no to her.

The fact that the structure of the parasite alleviates maternal anxiety has given it the power to survive and lead us to what Professor Shoshana Zuboff, in her book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, calls "Surveillance capitalism." Professor Zuboff states,

"Digital connection is now a means to others' commercial ends. At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx's old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human's experience." (pg 9)
In my case, the human experience surveillance capitalism is feeding off is my mother's fears and anxieties, which are real and not baseless.

My mother has a lot of anxiety due to various traumatic experiences. When my brother, Edwin, was only a couple of months old, a woman tried to snatch my mother from my mother's arms. She once had to jump out of a moving cab when she noticed the driver driving past our house and told her to “not worry about it.” To top it all off, she is aware of the fact that I am a rape survivor. All these experiences have created a need to know my whereabouts -- this is where applications like Life360 come in to soothe that fear. Life360 allows my mother to know where I am at all times. It tells her when I get on and off a car, how long the ride was, how fast it went, and the exact trajectory. It even notifies her when my battery is low. My mother’s love has enabled companies like Life360 to create an actual surveillance state. What is parasitic is that life360 “is selling data on kids’ and families’ whereabouts to approximately a dozen data brokers who have sold data to virtually anyone who wants to buy it." Companies can keep poking at mother’s fears to justify making money off our data. Life360’s CEO noted,

" We see data as an important part of our business model that allows us to keep the core Life360 services free for the majority of our users, including features that have improved driver safety and saved numerous lives.”
The parasite did not develop my mother’s fears, but this fear is the problem the parasite promises to fix in exchange for human attention/data.


Webs Webs

r6 - 06 Feb 2024 - 05:18:24 - AllysonChavez
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