Re: "People who lived through the 90s to 00’s probably never thought soft censorship and a hostile corporate takeover would happen via search engines, but it sure did."
I have been in tech/IT and online since before the web existed, and even a bit before mass public email availability. I watched arguments on listservs and forums and BBSes about pros and cons of commercialization of the internet get completely steamrollered by de facto commercialization of the internet.
That was the beginning of the end of the original idealism about and potential 'promise of' the internet. Plenty of people saw it coming, and nobody could stop it, since our culture of greed and vulgarization didn't collapse in time. And obviously still hasn't.
The specifics on what the mess would look like varied, but that it would be a mess was obvious enough.
The likes of "Dead Internet Theory" I see as primarily cop-outs, another way for people to whine and complain and blame someone else, rather than taking any responsibility for their own complicity or doing anything different.