Social Media and the Blockchain
What are blockchain social media platforms and why are they a haven for freedom of expression and transparency?
Social media and blockchain are two technologies that commonly make headlines. But how and do these two technologies work together?
Why Put Social Media on the Blockchain?
Social media and the blockchain are not an unknown pairing. Several different blockchain-based social media startups have been around for years now. Social media startups are attracted to blockchain technology for a variety of different reasons. Some of the main advantages of blockchain for social media include:
The current major social media companies are relative monopolies in their spaces and have the ability to exert a great deal of control over the types of content posted on their platforms and disseminated to their users. Blockchain, which is designed to be a fully decentralized system, lacks the centralization of traditional social media. This decentralization makes blockchain-based social media platforms more resistant to censorship.
A common criticism of social media platforms is their lack of transparency. Platforms like Facebook have been the defendants in a number of different lawsuits regarding what they do with their users’ data, and many of these platforms have been accused of being arbitrary in the application of their rules regarding “acceptable” content. A blockchain is designed to be fully transparent, meaning that any rules regarding what constitutes “acceptable” content are transparent, consistent, and fairly applied.
- Incentives and Compensation:
Traditional social media platforms are designed to monetize their users. These platforms collect their users’ data and sell information about them to companies selling targeting advertising. Blockchain platforms, on the other hand, have built-in methods for paying for use of its infrastructure (block rewards and transaction fees) and for rewarding creators or paying subscriptions (cryptocurrency). This eliminates the need to monetize users to make a profit.
Many blockchain platforms are designed to provide a level of anonymity to their users. Instead of using real identities, blockchain accounts are identified by public keys and addresses. This anonymity can be an asset in some spaces on social media where publishing unpopular opinions or facts could endanger a journalist or writer.
The blockchain is designed to create a distributed and immutable digital ledger, making it difficult to modify or remove information without detection. This can be an asset in some contexts where an authoritative record would be valuable.
While all of these are potential advantages of blockchain technology for social media, the picture isn’t all positive. Many of these same factors can also be detrimental to a social media platform. For example, the anonymity of blockchain (not essential but common) can encourage trolling and abusive behavior online. Or the blockchain’s immutability could make it difficult to remediate leaks of sensitive information on social media. Social media is an interesting potential application for blockchain technology, but they aren’t a perfect fit.
The Reality of Social Media and the Blockchain
Blockchain is a relatively young technology. While the original blockchains are over a decade old, it took several years before Bitcoin and its descendants achieved widespread visibility. While many companies - both large and small - are actively investigating the potential of blockchain solutions, many projects are still in their early stages.
The same can be said of blockchain-based social media projects. Several such projects are in existence, but many have been around for only a few years. The history of social media as a whole demonstrates that it can be difficult to predict if and when certain social media sites will take off and succeed.
Some social media sites - like MySpace - were relatively early successes, while many of the major players today were ridiculed in their youth by the major players of the day. At some point, it seems very likely that a social media platform based on blockchain technology will take off. However, it is impossible to tell whether this will be any of the ones that currently exist today.
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Guest author Howard Poston is a cybersecurity and blockchain security consultant and trainer. You can reach Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org