It seems that applications for Blockchain technology are cropping up everywhere. From real estate to finance, and from climate change to train schedules, Blockchain technology has become the go-to solution for many issues facing modern society. Now Blockchain technology may take on the social media world as well.
Social media promised consumers a censorship-free way to communicate with each other. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were conceived as a means of direct consumer interaction. However, the promise has not been kept. Social media platforms are becoming increasingly censored, both internally and through government regulation.
Privacy is also a major concern, as users have learned that social media outlets are using content for traffic and profit. Rather than protecting consumers, social media has allowed for reduced privacy in order to increase platform profitability. Users are no longer in control of who sees their content or how it is monetized.
Both these problems are caused by the centralized nature of social media. Because these outlets have become corporate giants, their centralized structure provides a single venue where data for users is easily leveraged and easily censored.
Fighting the giants
Blockchain technology is uniquely positioned to deal with both these issues. By decentralizing corporate social media, Blockchain technology removes the hub responsible for censorship and privacy leaks.
Social media on a decentralized peer-to-peer ledger would allow users to interact directly with each other. Because the information is on the Blockchain, it would be completely secure, eliminating the issues of privacy.
Further, moving social media onto the blockchain would allow for decentralization, creating a censorship-free platform where users could express themselves without corporate governance. Such a system would bring to fruition what social media set out to be.
One company, onG.social, is creating a decentralized social media system where users can access all their social media feeds from a single decentralized and secure source. Founder Christopher Kramer said:
“The Blockchain is transforming social media through censorship resistant, global ledger technology that puts each person in control of their data and monetization without the requirement of top down control.”
Blockchain and the attention economy
Blockchain is also decentralizing how we ‘pay attention’. The attention of consumers is at a premium. Advertising agencies, websites, and social media are all clamoring for traffic in order to boost revenue, while users are left with few options to monetize their content.
Centralized systems keep profits from consumers’ attention, while the users themselves are unable to find ways to monetize their content apart from selling ad space. The content itself is owned and leveraged by the centralized platform.
Blockchain technology may offer a simple solution to this problem as well. By creating a platform that allows users to interact with each other instead of through the hub, platforms like WildSpark.me from Synereo are pushing profits back to the user.
By creating internal tokens, these new Blockchain platforms are designed to incentivize users and remove censorship. Consumers are completely in control of what they share and how they profit from what they’ve shared.
Blockchain technology’s ability to replace centralized corporations with machines and spread both content and profit to users may well create a perfect storm for new social media disruption.
Blockchain and digital crime
The last component of privacy and censorship-resistance that must be considered is digital crime. While many users are simply seeking a system that allows them to post and share without centralized censorship, others may seek to use the blockchain system for criminal activity.
The dangers associated with cybercrime are real, and social media has become a huge driver of criminal activity. A staggering 81% of internet crimes take place via social media, meaning that Blockchain technology’s security may actually be like handing the fox the keys to the henhouse.
However, while Blockchain technology does provide censorship-free content posting for users, building incentivizing structures within the social media platforms may solve the cybercrime problem. Using internal cryptocurrencies to reward ‘good’ posts and to remove ‘bad’ ones based on verifiability, platforms like onG.social and WildSpark may simply police themselves through user feedback.
Both platforms use digital tokens (onG’s is the onGCoin, WildSpark is the AMP) in order to manage content. This system of reward for quality assumes that the majority of people in the platform are not gun runners or drug buyers, and therefore will self-regulate the platform internally.
This solution is designed to limit fake news and cybercrime. However, even if the self-policing method fails, the shutdown of AlphaBay and SilkRoad by police forces should tell us that even the most secure system can eventually be cracked when enough resources are brought to bear.
Whether this system is viable remains to be seen as the number of platforms seeking such censorship-free communication continues to rise.
Regardless, Blockchain technology will continue to make meaningful advancements into these areas.