Big Tech-controlled social media has made headlines of late for policies that the public viewed to be censoring free speech, and curating what views could be shared on their respective platforms. In the name of combating the spread of hate-speech and discourse that may incite violent activity, Facebook, and Twitter have banned certain high-profile users.
Social Media and theft of data
Another concern that the public have voiced is the fact that these companies collect, store, and use user data in ways that are extremely unclear. The spread of misinformation on these social communication tools often leads to skewed views and negatively impacts conversations around important topics, as seen with the spate of misinformation found on social media, regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is suggested that blockchain technology could help address some of the issues that centralized social platforms find themselves grappling with. Decentralized social networks or federated networks could give users more control over their network, posts they see, as well as their data, which would, theoretically, do away with censorship, and myriad other issues.
Decentralized Social Media
A decentralized social network is a social communication platform that runs on blockchain technology. As opposed to your run-of-the-mill social platform, which stores information on a central, company-owned server, and whose policies are governed by a few – their decentralized counterparts store information on a globally dispersed, network of, independently owned servers.
In decentralizing a social platform, developers hope to democratize the social media experience, allowing users to have a say on policy, control what content they view, as well as do away with political censorship, and other platforms. With greater autonomy, it is hoped, more robust conversations can be had, without the worry of Big Tech curating their communication with over users.
By running decentralized platforms on blockchain, much of the policy enforcement work can be handled automatically, by code. Decentralization also carries the added benefit of cross-platform communication.
The Good, The Bad
As with every new idea, there are issues that arise which the creators could not have expected, though it addresses an existing issue. Social networks – the decentralized variant – can, like centralized counterparts, foster the growth of the community and the sharing of information in a way that can affect social and political change in unprecedented ways. Except, the moderated nature of decentralized platforms can also lead to the exacerbation of both negative and positive issues.
On The Plus Side of decentralized networks, there is communication, the sharing of knowledge, the promotion of social/political awareness, which could help raise money for causes or simply sell a product or service to new customers.
On The Negative end of the spectrum, social media is a favorite tool for the spread of misinformation, cyberbullying, and actual criminal activity. Without humans to actively watch this problem, they could lead to hate groups using social media to openly organize a disruptive activity.
Decentralized networks offer many advantages over their centralized counterparts, such as more control over personal data, as well as the content that one is privy to once on the platform. Humans being humans, however, this approach to social media could have effects that ripple into analog society.
A careful approach to a social platform where users have free reign will need to be carefully thought out before being rushed into the market. It has the potential to do as much harm as it does good.