Facebook, Twitter, and Google are trying to be public utilities, but without any public oversight. Few, if any, laws currently regulate their abuses of privacy and monopoly privilege, although the European Union is trying to change that.
Part of the problem is technophobia, which is animosity towards people who rely on technology. Technophobes believe that those youngsters ought to pay less attention to "pixels, texting, ear buds, twittering, [and] online social networking," and more attention to what really matters: The technophobes and their needs. A lot of voters are technophobes, so stuff Twitter does to screw you over doesn't matter to them.
But another big part of the problem is that we are used to thinking of ourselves as consumers, as individuals, as basically powerless. Solidarity isn't a thing anymore. Instead we have "participation," where you write Amazon.com reviews or mark stuff in Gmail as spam. And everyone takes it for granted that the new breed of robber barons can do whatever they want, and mine resources nobody knew were valuable -- like people's identities and privacy. Which is very convenient for them.
So now we have stuff like this:
Google is now the way people find out anything on the Internet. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.
Facebook is now the way people define their relationships and share their lives with each other online. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.
Twitter is now the way people chat online. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.
And Amazon is now the way everyone buys everything. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.
We have laws that keep businesses from abusing their customers and legitimate competitors. Those laws have not kept up with the times. And in many cases, they were inadequate to begin with.
I don't think the long-term solution is going to involve competing with them, or avoiding them, or recommending against them, or any other individualistic "consumer" behaviour. Because as it stands, quitting one of these sites means sacrificing all the value that you put into their system through your and your friends' years of participating, such as all those likes and reviews and Steam games. Value which they extracted from you, and you now have no legal right to, or at least no right to withdraw in a usable form.
Instead, we need to change the rules on them. And it isn't immoral to do so, because the rules are how they got where they are. They profited from publicly-funded research and infrastructure, from publicly-educated employees, and (perhaps in Amazon's case) from social safety net programs designed to keep inadequately compensated warehouse workers alive.
If I knew anyone who was trying to return the power to us, in this country, I'd be voting for them. Unfortunately, I don't.
In the meantime, I'm doing the "consumer" thing and looking for alternatives. DuckDuckGo is an awesome search engine that's like Google before it got Plused, and doesn't track you or anything. And Dreamwidth's Guiding Principles spell out a more responsible social contract, where its founders and employees are part of the community instead of above it. And where the volunteers who work on it own it themselves via Free Software licensing.
It should be a crime for other startups not to have such arrangements.
Because the only way Dreamwidth got founded to begin with is that LiveJournal was based on Free Software and used open standards like RSS. Without the LiveJournal import and cross-posting, Dreamwidth would have been dead in the water.
Just like Diaspora.