Many projects in the crypto space and in decentraland are creating new social media platforms and decentralized content sharing platforms. The message is clear: own your data, you are your algorithm and you earn tokens with content. These initiatives hold the promise of transforming issues like privacy, transparency, monetization and community that swarm around Facebook as an increasingly itching flaw. The central issue for new neutral open sourced social platforms is governance and control over content. Decentralized means freedom for all to put whatever content on the platforms. That is when the platform works on a permissionless basis, so no permission is needed to join the happy family. But what to do with content posted by digital outlaws offending the values of the community?
How can blockchain technology support the integrity of the community in holding the flag of values upright without having a centralized mechanism of censorship and control?
This question is one of the main issues of 21st century decentralized social media platforms. Is this possible? and if yes, how would that look like?
The dilemma for new neutral social platforms
Imagine you are creating a decentralized YouTube or Facebook on a tokenized storage platform. This is like creating a highway that everybody can use, with free billboard spaces all along the route, without control of the vehicles and the content. Than imagine attracting all of the scum of the internet, all the dark content masturbators that have been banned from Facebook and even from Reddit. You probably be suddenly very happy to stick to the existing Youtube and Facebook.
The main question to be solved is the permissionless structure of truly decentralized platforms versus ethical content gathering and spreading.
When we look at marketplaces, the solution in the past was to go underground using encrypted darknets. But to maintain these out of sight of regulators, they still need to be centrally governed by shady tech lords and invisible admins to keep silk road 2.0 going.
How to bring decentralized, open source and permissionless social platforms out in the light?
The flag of the borderless crypto nations stands for its core values
Mozes came down from the mountain with scripted tablets. The ten commandments were written in stone, and they became the core values of Christianity and Judaism. This was in fact the first blockchain of modern humanity. Around those values; culture, law and community arose. Behaviour was validated by the interpretations of the translation of these commandments in the holy bible. Misbehaviour was punished according to the prohibitions written down in the tablets concerning theft, blasphemy, dishonesty and murder to name a few. People not honouring the values, and not obeying the laws made around those, would be removed from the community.
2000+ years later, the blockchain is the modern day stone tablet with the core values of each new project written down in unchangeable protocols.
Let’s give some examples to make this more tangible
Basic attention token core value is seeing you, the media browser, not as a product anymore. Your attention is the core value of its token, the Basic Attention token. Bitcoins core value is written down in its constitution, the genesis block. The members of the community of bitcoin gather around the core value of states never be able to bale out banks again in times of financial crisis. Thus Bitcoin is the alternative to failing FIAT: a neutral borderless digital currency. TRON protocol has several core values. Inspired with the general idea by Berners-Lee that the internet must be free and decentralized, TRON follows the idea that users who create data will at all times have fundamental ownership of that data.
How to skip censorship?
Most of these decentralized nation-states have the desire to be censorship resistant since that is one of the core commandments of neutrality. Lets go back to the example of a decentralized content platform connected to a new social media platform. When a board of controllers would be set in place to vet incoming content, they would first be very busy, and secondly, they would discriminate their own core libertarian values. Going back to a community-based model, the solution is: let the community vote on wanted and unwanted content with the protocols as guidelines.
Lets take a real life example. Minds.com is a neutral, free and open source social network on Ethereum. The core value of minds is to provide users with more control over their content, data and financial transactions. Through a peer-driven, incentive-based system, users get compensated directly for their content on Minds.
So how is malicious content controlled or either banned on this open source decentralized platform? Minds uses the Hashtag system, so people that would use hashtags referring to Nazi content would get this content. As long as it is legal, they would. I wonder what would happen if a complete Nazi headquarter would migrate to Minds and start upvoting their blogs and content. That content would still only be visible for people searching specifically for the Nazi hashtag. I typed in Nazi and indeed got some pretty nasty content from my personal value point of view, and I also some age warnings. So its not blocked, you just need to look for it and really want it I suppose. Like atracts Like. Some kind of minds atract like-minded minds.
For the content in the dark, you need to search. This type of content is probably simply less to none rewarded by its community. But it’s not possible to ban this content by the users. Only illegal content is banned, such as child porn. So, in the end, there is a mechanism that controls the content. Who decides what swastika is acceptable and what Hitler quote is not? The community should I would say, but they are probably too busy to get to the top of the content pyramid to earn tokens and push their story and don’t bother about the Nazi hashtag at all.
The Minds project is probably not keeping Marc Zuckerberg from sleep at night. It also got quite some critique on medium for example, for people being offended by the Nazi content. Why would they not build a model where the community can ban content that is not in line with their core values? I guess since their core value is more directed towards users earning tokens than creating a healthy nourishing content landscape. And at the end of the day, this is the consequence of decentralization, it appeals to people’s responsibility and restrains from being dogmatic.
The most famous open source neutral platform that rewards content with tokens is Steemit. They banned the hacker group ‘The Dark Overlords’ in January 2019, infringing their core value of being neutral. Their terms and services state that illegal content will be removed. I guess the Dark Overlords are illegal. When following the laws of the country, the US for example, in being legal, you can forget about being truly neutral. The dark overlords claim to have hacked very sensitive information regarding the 9/11 attacks. I am afraid the Overlords need to stay in the dark a bit longer.
Two questions remain: What if the core values of your borderless nation-state are different than the ones of the existing country you operate in? And secondly: How can technology help safeguard your values on a truly decentralized platform?
How can technology validate content that is in line with the values of the community?
The solution of both questions lies hidden in Blockchain technology. And to be more exact, in smart contracts. They have to be designed to become the voice of the community. Since the community members are gathering around core values, they embrace these values within themselves. That's why they feel at home in this specific community (the infrastructure), goals (the platform, the ‘problem’ fixed with technology, you should fully own your data for example) and start speaking that language (the tokens used for exchange). The content added to this community is vetted by all of its members. This validation process is done by very smart contracts. They can filter core value content from non-valued content. How? Technology will do this.
A fine example is the project Prover.io. Prover is a technology for confirmation for the authenticity of video content. The next step is to not only validate the authenticity, but also the value of the content according to the core protocols. Core Value Validating Content (CVCV)by smart contracts, that will do the job!
Don’t worry, people can have different opinions, but within the range of the core values like respect, transparency, honesty and authenticity.
This CVCV process is fully transparent for the community members or users. The log is the transparent diary of the storyteller of the community, and all of its members have this diary. Nobody can overrule the decisions made by the smart contracts once the protocols have been set in place. Only a hardfork would be possible. In every tribe, a Judas can occur at all times. In general, the values encrypted by the founding fathers are irreversible. If they are coming from a mountain or not, they are set in stone by the Mozes of the 21st century.
Lucien Lecarme, May 2019