The internet has become a crucial tool for business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketers. It's how we connect with our customers and get work done. So the mere thought of restricted access or, worse, getting "cancelled" can be a scary thing.
These things are very real, however. James and our guest Mark Jeftovic discuss internet censorship and cancel culture, how it can affect your business, and what you can do about it.
In this episode of SuperFastBusiness, James and his guest are talking about the future of the internet, because it is changing rapidly. And if you have an online business, it’s something you need to be aware of.
James has brought back Mark Jeftovic of easyDNS to give us an expert’s perspective on internet restriction and the cancel culture, two things that ought to concern today’s internet marketers. It’s a topic they touched on in Mark’s last appearance, where they talked of the importance of having control of your online assets.
Their current chat was previously postponed because of a cyber attack on Mark’s side, which makes James curious: is this something they’re seeing more of? He’s read about Russians attacking a meatworks plant in the US. How much of this stuff is actually happening? And how much are people allowed to know? He knows that in some countries web content is heavily censored.
Is cyber conflict on the rise?
Mark addresses the first question, are there more attacks? At easyDNS, no. The incident that postponed their talk was the first in a long time. As a DNS company, they’re used to getting hit on the name servers, and they’ve built up systems now to where it’s not really much of a thing anymore.
Attacks in general, however, are more frequent, says Mark. Ransomware is rampant. Mark and his friends say half jokingly that World War III has started, just no one’s seen the memo. We’re in a new global conflict that’s being fought with economics, narrative and internet.
What makes things complicated, he says, is when you try to tell people about it on media, especially the technical aspects, they almost always get it wrong.
So yes, there’s more cyber conflict globally, there’s more internet attacks happening in the world, but the reporting on it is getting worse, and less accurate, and more hysterical, and narrative, and politically driven, and further and further from reality.
Why is it always the Russians?
And you’ll notice, says Mark, that high-consequence ransomware attacks are immediately attributed to Russia. When a solar wind supply chain was hit, Reuters put out a two-sentence story that cited an unnamed source ascribing it to Russia. All the major media outlets ran with it, and that was it. Russia did it.
Mark has it on some security lists that there is evidence linking Russia to the solar winds attack, but some evidence that couldn’t be shown. It’s good enough for him. However, he has his doubts about the whole Russia obsession, as in the latest meatpacking attack. Ascribing something to Russia, or getting a communication from Russia, could mean anything, especially when it’s misreported by the media.
He’s pointed out, it could just be the hackers using a throwaway webmail account from mail.ru. Why blame everything on Russia?
It makes it hard, he says, to unpack what’s really going on. And to make it more complicated, governments change their stories all the time about what is and isn’t happening, while the media run their own agenda as well.
Trying too hard to seem normal
Says James, when he goes to the Australian government website, he sees clear facts that don’t seem to be parlayed into the news, things that he would have thought should be reported. Or when he sees a medical peer reviewed documentation of something seemingly newsworthy, it doesn’t seem to make it out in the press.
James doesn’t believe in conspiracies, but is it just him seeing this in isolation? Or is there a restriction on what can and cannot be reported? And how is that happening?
Mark says James is not alone in that regard. He calls it hypernormal, from the documentary HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis. It’s a term, he says, that describes a situation of surrealness that sets into a population when they have to pretend things are true that are obviously absurd.
“There’s no conspiracy, there’s a dynamic.”
Like James, Mark doesn’t really believe in conspiracies. He always says, there’s no conspiracy, there’s a dynamic. There’s a structural incentive that spins things a certain direction, and there can’t be any kind of even tacit admission that this narrative is not the one true narrative.
What online business owners can do
James is thinking, how does this affect online business owners? They’ve talked about it from a consumer’s perspective, just him, for instance, as a person. But what he’s noticed as a business coach is, some of the platforms, especially over the last year, have revealed themselves to have a pretty heavy hand that can slap the business owner.
He’s talked about it for the longest time, about OwnTheRacecourse and not relying on the big platforms. As a consumer, he’s experienced the filters in place. And as a business coach, he sees some of his clients being throttled or restricted in terms of where or what they can message.
One of the big issues of recent times is a sort of battle with cookies and tracking. People in James’s catchment who’ve relied somewhat much on building audiences and tracking pixels are experiencing a sort of withdrawal.
“What can you control?”
Can Mark relate? And what can affected business owners do about it?
For sure, says Mark. His mantra was, What can I control? I can control how I react to this. I can’t really control a lot now, and that feels bad, and I have to acknowledge that. But what can I control?
And it’s simple, he says, in the sense that we have to double down on owning the race course. You have to double down on that, and you double down on your email list, and you double down on taking as much of your customer relationship data under your own direct database and roof as possible.
And if anything, you work on getting more backup, more redundancy, more spread out, so that if you do have a big Facebook audience, or you do have a big Twitter following, you’re not going to get cut off from your best advocates and followers if you get knocked off one of those platforms. So you’re doubling down on what’s already worked in the past.
And then diversify. Everyone Mark knows started a new business. So you can take that existing infrastructure and mailing lists, and you can go to your existing customers and say, I’ve got this over here that you might be interested in. It’s building on that. And now there is an incentive structure.
One good thing that came out of this last year, says Mark, is that a lot more eyes are open now to this. Conversations with his neighbors astound him. Facebook is a gulag. Twitter is like, one opinion or no opinion. And the news is like propaganda, that was the word one of his neighbors used.
There are incentives and fresh eyes now to explore a new way of doing things. So you could try running ads on an alternate platform, like MeWe or similar, and you might get more traction there now than you would have gotten last year.
The same rules apply. Don’t become reliant on one of those new platforms. If you try one out and it works great, fantastic. But remember to get the email addresses and get a personal engagement going with those people that is not based on the platform that you found them through.
Most people don’t experience censorship because they never run afoul of the rules. But there’s a greater awareness now, that maybe we shouldn’t spend all our time on Facebook, maybe we should look at these other platforms. And if you find someone you like, maybe you should subscribe to their email list in case they get kicked off Facebook. And perhaps that’s one of the things to be optimistic about.
Why email is more important than ever
Do things to get people on your email list. Use your social media platforms, use your podcast, your video shows, webinars, challenges, books, courses, whatever. Get them onto the email list. And then use the list to monetize that into products or services, recurring solutions, etc.
The one thing you can do as an online business owner right now, is to think about your email list as being more important than ever before, and to do things that are healthy for the list.
There’s technical things you can do on the email side, says Mark, like sending from a domain that’s got SPF and DKIM and DMARC set up. And make sure you’re going through a clean outbound mailer service, and that you can set up RBL monitoring to make sure your outbounds aren’t getting blacklisted.
You can go to MXToolbox, adds James, to see if your mail server has been black flagged.
The plan if you are reliant on one platform
James asks, if you have got a strong reliance on a single platform, what would be the steps to protect yourself?
One of the things Mark likes to do is put out part of a story, and make people come back to your site to read the rest of it. If you’re going to put out a YouTube video that’s an hour long, get the first half hour out there and say, Come back to the website to get the rest of it.
“Email, email, email. Get the email.”
And then on that website, try to get them to opt in. You can do that on some social platforms, too. But again, the common thread is email, email, email. Get the email.
The core of James’s email growth, he says, has been the resources for download with every episode of the podcast. You can opt in to his newsletter and get access to every transcription of every single episode they’ve done. These are free, just like the podcast is free. And if at some point people decide he’s the person who can solve a problem they have, that’s how they end up in SuperFastBusiness membership.
That’s how they end up at easydns.com. If you’re listening and think Mark knows his stuff, and you’d like to secure your domain better against attacks and the like, you can check out that site.
The way things look to be headed
What does Mark see coming in the future of the internet?
It’s going to get worse everywhere before it gets better, he says. Mark sits on the board for the Internet Society Canada chapter, and they’ve been looking at the bills that are coming out. Their chair phrased it, We have the most anti-internet federal government in history, in our country’s history.
And it doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum is in power, Mark says. They’re just putting in more censorship and more punitive controls and regulations. So you’ve basically got to take matters into your own hands and just connect with the information you want and take control of your own infrastructure.
One of the bills places the internet with broadcast mediums like radio and television, subject to regulation by the CRTC. It’s going to have Canadian content quotas and rules and discoverability rules, which may sound good on the surface, but it will actually damage Canadian artists and content creators, because 90 percent of their audiences are outside of Canada.
If other countries retaliate with similar rules, then Canadian content creators will be caught in the crossfire, and will lose their non-Canadian audiences.
Another bill would ban material criticizing politicians.
There’s stuff happening in Australia, says Mark, and in places like Malaysia, they can just turn the internet off.
How to preserve a measure of freedom
Entrepreneurs don’t like to be blinkered, says James. And one way to protect some of your freedom is to pull down your email list as a CSV and stick it on your hard drive. That’s at least an asset that you can redeploy in multiple versions, whether you’re using a remarketing list or putting it up to a new email provider, should the old one stop working.
Mark agrees. His final thoughts? Though he thinks it will get worse before it gets better, he does think it will get better. George Gilder, who predicted the end of television in Life after Television, has another book, Life after Google, from which Mark takes some optimism.
“The secret to sustainability is to keep it simple.”
James also thinks it will get better. He’s at a point of wanting to prune back – on social use, on properties. It’s really the secret to sustainability, he says, is keeping it simple.
If you want help securing your domain, look up Mark at easydns.com.
They also have a spinoff business called DomainSure.com, for very high-value domains. That is, domain names that are holding up a piece of the internet or have to secure very protected membership bases or assets like cryptocurrency exchanges. DomainSure is there to defend a domain on all possible perimeters.
If you register your domain through them, they will fight for you to stop someone shutting it down.
To transfer your domain to them, you simply head to the website, to Transfer a domain. They will do the heavy lifting. Mark kindly provides a coupon code for listeners of this episode, SuperFastBusiness 50% Off Initial Offer.
You can check out Mark’s newsletter as well at axisofeasy.com.
Stay on top of online business developments with the resources inside SuperFastBusiness membership
Liked the show? Enjoy all the episodes on iTunes