One of my favorite things to do on Twitter is to look at replies to attention grabbing tweets. I assume this is what most media trained people do as it is so easy to post fake news, and comments will always have some sort of counter. Today I logged on, clicked a tweet and a message popped up saying, “some replies were hidden by the author.” Twitter’s leniency on censorship has been only reason I’ve never written my argument for decentralized social media, but this notification triggered my fingers.
There are a million reasons to decentralize things, but I will only expand on those that I am most familiar with.
What would decentralized social media look like?
In truly decentralized environments, things will (ideally) run themselves. This usually means a team of developers make an algorithmic based network on which people can send information to one another. If the design is updated, people have the option to stay on the non-updated version.
Developers need to be compensated for their time, so they usually add some sort of currency that plays a role in the network. I won’t act like I’m some sort of economist, but what I do know is that developers of large cap projects can pay their rent at the end of the month.
To keep it short, the dream scenario would be a platform that could never be taken down, users could choose which version they want and one that is worth developing.
Ownership of content
“Every time the local news replies to a viral tweet with “hey can we use this footage” and the guy who tweeted it says “sure” and not “fuck off” or “pay me” I die a little inside.”
When I think of content ownership, I think of Basic Attention Token (BAT). Since I am neither an expert on BAT nor a psychic, I will predominantly talk about this from the perspective of current grievances rather than future solutions.
We’ve all seen a media outlet use citizen reporting to help break a story. Most of the time, a person who stumbles upon important information will not know what it’s worth and give it away for free. This is mostly because there isn’t a way to evaluate the worth of information within the short time that it is exclusive or relevant.
An environment like brave browser allows people to turn on ads and receive BAT in micro-payments. These micro-payments have the potential to create expendable income that is easier to donate online then to cash out. So unless a content consumer is really struggling to pay their bills, the BAT they receive from watching ads will sit in their browser’s wallet.
In an instance where an individual just reported exclusive information through a decentralized platform, they can turn on a paywall and charge $0.05 worth of BAT to those who would like to view it. This means that instead of a media outlet framing the original reporting inside of an article that they have ads placed on, they summarize the information, share a link and viewers can pay the $0.05 to see the original post if they would like.
Would decentralized social media promote freedom of speech?
I am your typical social justice warrior college student, but if people are being racist online, I want to see it. In my opinion, hiding things doesn’t make them go away.
On Twitter, accounts will be banned pretty quickly for using hateful language. This only means that Twitter has an accurate gauge of how many people in whichever area are ignorant and it is not available for the general public.
With Twitter implementing the ability for authors of tweets to hide whichever responses they want from the public, the least censored social platform is only becoming more censored.
Another way that decentralization can help free speech when businesses become controlled by governments. A government can ask website to block certain information by threatening to ban their website altogether. It is in the business’s best interest to block the information that they ask because some revenue and exposure is more profitable than none.
All-in-all, it seems that the more money an organization makes, the more they try to censor content within it. People need a place to go that is cool enough to put hatred in its place, but free enough to let it exist.
Organizations impose limits on acceptable content
This issue mostly revolves around YouTube, which in certain situations acts very similarly to a social media site.
Whether making commentary videos or vlogs, many content creators have been demonetized by YouTube for using bad words. Within the past five years, YouTube chose make it much more difficult to make money from creating mature content.
Suddenly, channels who had built a library that contained curse words had their work and success demonetized. This left them with the option of finding their own sponsors and forgoing YouTube ad revenue or censoring themselves.
YouTube is completely within their right to manage their site how they wish, but the sad part is that the creators had nowhere else to go.
On top of censorship, YouTube has had issues with automatically demonetizing or taking videos down for containing clips or sound from other sources. Algorithms are simply not capable of determining fair usage, so they automatically side with the copyright claim if the usage surpasses a certain criteria.
Music reaction videos are huge on YouTube and undeniably help promote artists, but neither the record labels or YouTube seem to care about the person who made the reaction. When record labels claim copyright on a video, YouTube’s algorithm will pick it up and forward all revenue from the video to the record label.
A decentralized platform would have no incentive to have an algorithm in place for these types of things, because they wouldn’t be making money from ads. Instead, the advertisers would be paying users directly for their time and have no affiliation with the content being played.
The money the viewer makes from watching ads would then ideally be donated partly to the person who made the reaction video, and partly to the artist if they had a wallet address.
There are many more reasons to decentralize social media than the ones I’ve listed, and my ideas likely have problems that I am not knowledgeable enough to think of. Regardless, freedom on the internet is trending downwards and the common factor is the interest of big business. The grassroot aspect of blockchain technology naturally leads to conversation of how we can distribute power, and media businesses are powerful.
Feel free to tell me what I’m missing.