Truth Social and Starlink
Modern Social Media platforms all have common building blocks under the hood. Cancel culture attacks make them vulnerable in previously unthought of ways. Starlink, or something like it, is crucial
My friend Brian Cates, whose great writing you can find here on Substack and Telegram (@drawandstrikechannel) and elsewhere, has been talking about StarLink lately, in between posts and articles about SpyGate, RussiaGate, Durham, and politics—topics on which he has had an absolute bullseye since the very beginning of the whole coup attempt against Trump that began in 2016.
His mastery of the details, understanding of the way the puzzle pieces fit together, and his recall of the relevant facts is amazing.
This post will try to shed some light, from a more technical perspective, on why StarLink, or something like it, is so important.
A few years ago, I came across the acronym “ELI5” and I had to look it up to find out what it meant. It stands for “Explain it Like I’m Five”. It means '“try to put the concept that you’re trying to explain to me in the simplest possible terms.”
I’ll do my best to try that here, but as another hero of mine (Ethical Skeptic) says, sometimes that just isn’t possible. There is something that he calls the “Bridgman Point” which means that there is a threshold of simplification below which you cannot progress, or you start losing meaning. I’ll try my best to simplify, while staying above the Bridgman Point. (Click the link for Ethical Skeptic to read his take on this. This guy is a genius-hero in my book.)
Social media platforms are built from software (obviously). There is an analogy I can use here that people are more familiar with: building houses. Just as with home building, modern software relies on existing frameworks and materials. Imagine if every time you wanted to build a house you had to grow trees, cut down trees, saw them into lumber, dig up sand and clay and mix them to bake bricks, mine ore to smelt into copper, put sand in a blast furnace to make glass, pump oil out of the ground to make a slurry for paint, etc.
Obviously, that’s not how it’s done in the modern era. An architect designs a new house, but he relies on the fact that it will use standard wire, asphalt shingles, copper and PVC pipe of various standard sizes, standard sized windows and doors, carpet material, pre-cut lumber, drywall, etc. He designs the floor plan, and the exterior look and feel, and he can make a unique looking home for you; but it relies on standardized materials, nonetheless.
Building social media platforms using modern software is like that. You don’t start from scratch when you make a new platform; you put together well-known software components and modules that have already been built into millions of other software systems, and you customize the look and the feel of the outer shell to achieve your desired platform’s objective.
The problem with this approach is that your new social media app is now dependent on a whole bunch of components and layers that you don’t have control over; but in this way, it’s very much unlike the home building analogy. I’ll explain why momentarily.
Modern software relies on commonly used massive database engines (typically hosted by Google, Amazon or Microsoft); on standard web server software like Apache or Node (hosted by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others); on cloud-based web servers that live in massive, centralized data centers, which are needed so that your app can quickly and smoothly scale up to meet your growing user base (such data centers full of physical server hardware are hosted by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others).
Modern social media software depends on AI (artificial intelligence) driven building blocks for doing content moderation—AI is used to recognize “offensive” words and images in content streams for filtering or blocking; it depends on cloud-based services for distributing your images, audio and video files quickly across the globe (so-called Content Distribution Networks) from providers like Akamai or Cloudflare.
If your social media platform is an “App”, then it also depends on the Apple or Google app store; and if it involves payment of some sort, then it relies on payment processing systems from a provider like Stripe, Square, etc. Each of these components is built by and sold to you by any number of third-party providers. Your app only works if they all play together nicely as designed.
At the lowest level, your software obviously also depends on the Internet: and therefore, it depends on services and systems like DNS (Domain Name System), for which you might receive services by GoDaddy or NameCheap, and also on the physical layer of neighborhood, city-wide, state-wide and global network providers, either wired or wireless: think Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, etc.
Every single one of these layers is a dependency that can take your social media service offline if it isn’t available to you anymore.
So here’s where the software = home building analogy breaks down, thanks to cancel culture. Imagine you’re a home builder, and you’ve built entire neighborhoods of new homes. Communities are formed; dads are out mowing lawns, kids are happily playing in yards, moms are gardening and talking to neighbors, dogs and cats are playing with each other. Life is good, the neighborhood is thriving. Along comes the company who sold you the copper water pipes that are in every home you constructed, and they say: “you violated our Terms of Service. Too many of the people you sold homes to are Trump Supporters. We don’t like that. We are going to repossess every inch of copper pipe in all of your homes.”
Now, all of a sudden, all those happy families are cast out, because their water was shut off. So they find hotels and live with friends and family, hoping to be able to return home soon—but they’re pissed off at you, the home builder, for ruining their neighborhood. So you, the builder, take the hit, you go find another copper pipe supplier, and you replace all the copper pipe. You get everything working, and slowly people start returning home. But some never come back; the ones that do are sullen and ticked off, because their comfortable lives were disrupted for six months due to reasons outside of their control. But they’re back, and they start mowing and gardening again.
And then the guy who sold you drywall shows up at your builders office and says “you violated our Terms of Service. You sold too many homes to Trump supporters, and we don’t like that. We’re tearing out all the drywall that you bought from us.” And the cycle happens again.
That doesn’t really happen in the home building industry. But that does happen every day in the world of social media, because of the deranged cancel culture authoritarians who run the third-party software services and providers.
A new platform like Truth Social can anticipate this sort of thing happening; and it can pay a little more, and maybe take a little more time to build out its infrastructure so that it doesn’t have to rely on too many third-party cancellable components; its legal team can construct tight contract language forbidding cancellation for any but act-of-God reasons. It can own its own data centers and servers; it can host its own DNS servers. For the most part, it can insulate itself from the cancel culture mob.
There is still the issue of global DNS and the networks. Going back to the home builder analogy, DNS and the networks are the roads and street signs that people drive on and navigate with to get back and forth from work to their homes and neighborhoods. What if, after trying to shut you down, the copper and drywall guys that you replaced get together with others and tear down your street signs and streetlights and blockade your roads? Now your happy homeowners can’t even reach their driveways and front doors.
That’s the vulnerability that exists in the modern software realm due to dependencies on DNS providers and terrestrial networks (AT&T, Comcast, etc.)
But it’s worse than that. Because on the Internet, over the last 30 years, something else has also happened: the roads have all been secretly re-routed so that as you are driving your car home from work, you’re forced to pass under an X-ray and millimeter wave scanner operated by the US Intelligence Agencies. You’re unaware of it, but they shifted the road slightly so that all the traffic has to flow by under their sensors.
So now we get to the reason that StarLink, or something like it, is so important. What is StarLink? It is a network of space-borne satellites put aloft by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and it offers a way to deliver internet services pretty much anywhere in the world by a direct uplink/downlink to satellites. Thereby bypassing all of the existing ground-based network infrastructure.
In theory, my device (phone or PC) can connect to my StarLink antenna, beam my packets up into space, and they can come back down to your StarLink receiver and into your device…and at no time does any of that traffic depend on the legacy land-based internet.
It goes from me, to StarLink, to you. No AT&T (in bed with NSA, who has access to all of the major router facilities operated by AT&T) need apply.
Going back to the home and neighborhood analogy: it’s as if Elon Musk gave you a flying car that lets you take off from your driveway and land at work without ever having to drive on the old roads — and under the Intel Agencies sensors — anymore. Blockades by the cancel culture mob no longer works; you can fly around any obstacle.
I can talk to you, and you can talk to me, over a new “Internet” that isn’t cancellable, and the Truth Social media platform that we use as our community cannot be shut down, either.
And that, dear friends, is why StarLink and Truth Social are such a threat to the powers that be.