The Immaterial Labor Union was born out of a desire to escape from the atomization of the individual into the collective, to think about alternatives to the neoliberal grey area of the multitude and its permanent state of insulation, to negotiate terms of service and push for the protection of personal data on a transnational scope.
Framed within the context of social media monopolies such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+, the Union aims, on a short-term basis, to reddress privacy abuses and unfair working conditions perpetrated through the processing of our online data, and on a long-term basis to conceive and shape alternative social networking solutions.

Data Rights

For the time being, the EU Data Protection Directive still doesn't accomodate for globalization phenomena and the advent of social networks; plans are being traced for the adoption, in 2015, and implementation, in 2017, of a General Data Protection Regulation. This Regulation is expected to bridge the Directive's gaps regarding the network society.
In the meanwhile, it is important to trace the collective demands of the digital multitude in regards to control of personal data and negotiate the terms of the current information economy at work in popular social media websites. To give the example of Facebook, which is the most flagrant by the brazen arrogance of its terms of service, it is important to question to which degree do we really have a choice. While it is true that we only accept such outrageous conditions which deeply violate basic human rights if we choose to sign into Facebook, the only other option is opting-out the social loop of your friends and acquaintances. Such abusive demands only go mostly unchecked due to Facebook's monopoly status. You're commodified by default.
However, even when not on Facebook, information can still be gathered about you whenever a friend tags you in a photo, refers to you in a comment, etc.
The Union strives for user data control and transparency from a bottom-up perspective, where users push for data controllers to respect their rights by means of negotiation, rejecting the fake binary approach upheld by social media monopolies.

Data Labour

Increasingly, information is becoming the means of production of the digital age. The blurrying of lines between work and leisure time means the commodification of the latter, and the monetization of our relationships and online activities becomes the rule. The business model of large social media monopolies reduces us to a graph, easily mined, craftily designed. Their strategy makes clever use of the 'network effect' (where the number of users determines the value of a service) for marketing purposes, extracting profit from user activity. According to Maurizio Lazzarato, the production of subjects and social relations coincides, then, with economical power. Where the current mode of exploitation is now being labeled under the "social" tag, the user becomes further alienated from the perception of his/her condition as a worker.
Based on this assumptions, equating social media activity with labour and stating this correspondence clearly becomes key to framing the necessity of a Union which can effectively state its their demands in the context of digital economy.


Issue #4 (July 3rd 2015)