Following Vitalik Buterin’s call for more social app use cases on Ethereum earlier this summer, several crypto companies have expressed their intention to create decentralized versions of mainstream social media like Twitter. However, creating and displaying crypto-centric social platforms as mere decentralized versions of Twitter is short-sighted. The moral and technical implications of building truly decentralized social networks that adhere to Web 3.0 principles extend far beyond what the idea of “decentralized Twitter” currently encompasses.
Beyond simple decentralization, there are four key themes at the heart of the idea of crypto social development: private communication and censorship resistance, moderation, decentralized governance, and secure and decentralized money.
Private communication and resistance to censorship
Privacy is a human right, but this right is increasingly violated by centralized Big Tech companies that have financial incentives to collect, store and monetize their users’ data. In Facebook’s second quarter earnings report earlier this year, it was reported that the company alone generated $ 28.6 billion in advertising revenue. As the saying goes, “If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product,” and it’s time to rethink the incentives at play in existing social networks. Currently, platforms are motivated to collect private information from users in order to be paid by advertisers. With the privacy and encryption of crypto social networks, this paradigm is called into question because personally identifiable information is not as accessible, if at all, to advertisers.
At the heart of any crypto social network should be the ability to communicate and organize freely, without centralized corporate oversight. In recent years, concerns about online censorship have grown, a notable example being when Discord banned the r / WallStreetBets server amid GameStop’s shortening, apparently due to concerns about hateful content being posted to the community. Unlike centralized Web 2.0 platforms, such as Discord, decentralized social networks remove the bottlenecks of censorship. If no one controls the servers on the network, no person or entity can control and censor the content. While this fights censorship, it also presents a unique challenge: moderation.
Related: The giants of social networks must decentralize the Internet … Now!
The idea of moderation poses a problem for crypto social communities. On the one hand, the Web 3.0 values of social crypto are to create democratized applications free from censorship and prying eyes. On the other hand, communities should be able to protect themselves from spam attacks and malicious actors. Balancing moderation with the need for confidentiality, decentralization and resistance to censorship is a complex consideration with no clear solution.
The bottom line is that communities – and not a third party – should have control over the content in their spaces. The types of engagement vary from community to community, as does the classification of content as “good” versus “bad”. How the right information is shared and the wrong information is kept ultimately defines the value of the community itself, and it is important to approach moderation in a way that cannot be hijacked or manipulated.
One way forward to prevent spam is for communities to implement chat features using token-based permissions. With this method, owning specific tokens can grant members access to post, view, and / or administration permissions in a given community. To preserve the integrity of the tokens, smart contracts can be implemented to control the portability and permissions of each newly created token. This decentralized system ensures that moderation is conducted in a way that does not allow the subjectivity of an autonomous individual to control curation.
The problem with Web 2.0 social networks is that centralization inherently prevents communities from becoming autonomous and regulated. The success of a social network should mean the success of the social network as a whole – not the success of a single founder at the expense of the social network. This is the problem with the existing order of centralized social networks: the decisions of an individual or an autonomous entity control the evolution and fate of the network.
One way to remedy this loophole and establish decentralized governance is to use community money. By holding governance tokens, individual community members have the power to vote on decisions that shape the future of the community. The collective nature of this democratized voting system has the power to protect the community from the vagaries of corporate bureaucracy. With decentralized governance, users have a voice to effect change.
Related: Social governance of crypto will lead to online freedom
Secure and decentralized money
Decentralization, on its own, cannot ensure the longevity and self-sufficiency of crypto social networks. The integration of token-based incentives gives users a unique way to maintain and navigate social media communities. By issuing tokens to users, individual users become like shareholders of the platform, which motivates them to participate and contribute to the growth of the network.
When each user maintains a token balance, they are then able to perform transactions on their terms in a peer-to-peer fashion, essentially contributing to the economy of the network on their own. The use cases for these tokens are endless – from voting on proposals to crowdfunding an initiative to sending encrypted messages – and offer support for the long-term growth of the community.
As decentralized social networks gain interest and momentum, these four key themes demonstrate that there are many more considerations at play when designing new social networks than just the idea of decentralization. What we need are more focused platforms that uphold the intellectual and financial sovereignty of users – not surface buzzwords. Despite the gray areas on how to achieve this goal, the beauty of decentralized social media is that the community has the ability to shape the future of social media.
This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should do their own research before making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Corey Small began his blockchain-focused research around 2012 as a personal hobby while applying for a PhD at Texas Tech University in Computational Chemical Physics. He then co-founded The Bitcoin Podcast Network and still serves as a host on the flagship, The Bitcoin podcast and a more technical show, Chop it. Corey left academia and entered the data science / blockchain security industry for a few years trying to patch vulnerabilities in ICS / SCADA networks before finding his place as security manager at Status.im where it stays today.