The War in Ukraine, Elon Musk, and the Importance of Decentralized Social Networks – BeinCrypto

As current events accelerate the evolution of social networks, the issue of decentralization becomes more relevant than ever.

The world of digital communication is not static. While social networks have become an integral part of our daily lives, the way we interact with each other online has gradually conformed to the codes of “Big Tech”. The question then becomes: are these tech giants a threat to digital independence?

The good, the bad and the centralized

The recent war in Ukraine demonstrated that social media is a powerful but problematic tool. Many call this conflict the first one “social media war”. Previously, the US-Vietnamese conflict was considered the “first television war”.

On the one hand, social networks have helped support relief efforts and lift the veil on certain facts. On the other hand, they helped some actors to create a biased version of reality, especially with the deep fake (hyper-faking) and tools for the rapid spread of misinformation.

The centralization of the main social networks has allowed censorship of ideas and individuals. Obviously, this has limited the freedom of expression and opinion that many of these platforms boast of promoting.

Besides this conflict, the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk was a positive surprise for some and negative, even revolting for others.

The Tesla CEO, however, says freedom of speech is one of his top priorities. Despite his promises, Elon Musk fails to silence some voices that rise against the privatization of Twitter by the richest person in the world. In reality, whether it’s one man or all of Big Tech, these platforms are the centralized monopolies of our digital world.

What are Big Techs?

The designation “Big Tech” encompasses five big names in the technology industry, namely Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft. These tech giants indeed have a disproportionate influence on the functioning of the entire world. Their infrastructures dominate some of the most essential systems of our modern societies.

Most of the major social media platforms, from Facebook and Instagram to YouTube and Twitter, are somehow linked to one of these companies, which hold the key to our data, our ideas and our identity. .

What are decentralized social networks?

If decentralization solves the problems of centralized finance and data storage, it can arguably solve those of centralized social media.

First of all, it is important to understand what exactly these decentralized social media are and how they differ from traditional social networks. To better understand these differences, Be[In]Crypto spoke with Alex Simanfounder of subsocialan open protocol dedicated to social networks and decentralized marketplaces.

Decentralized vs Centralized: the main differences

First, decentralized social networks run on servers that are independently run and verified on the blockchain. In contrast, traditional social networks use centralized servers owned by a single business entity. Therefore, users and founders of decentralized social networks have both more control and more autonomy.

Mr. Siman cites other major attributes and benefits of decentralized social media, including “open source algorithms, monetization without intermediaries, censorship resistance, less bots and spam, and finally ownership of the social model. (social graph) to users”.

Censorship vs Moderation

The decentralization of virtual communities with radical ideas or viewpoints can be a cause for concern. However, it is important to note that a decentralized social media does not always mean complete anarchy and extremism. During a TED Talk conference organized a few days before his acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk said that online speech should be “as free as reasonably possible”. One of the ways to achieve this would be to find a happy medium in terms of moderation.

Censorship and moderation are two different things. One stifles free speech, while the other encourages constructive discourse and organized debate.

“Decentralized platforms struggle with censorship, but there can always be moderation,” Siman points out. “For example, Subsocial is a Web3 social network, but users will still need to resort to web applications to use it. These web applications often have moderation systems that allow them to function properly. If problem actors want their content to be visible, they may need to host their own web applications. From a network perspective, you can be completely decentralized and censorship-resistant, while still being clean and tidy from a user experience perspective.”

Constructive communication

Another good example to understand the nuances between censorship and moderation is the new political discourse social network, Etha. Although the platform is not currently blockchain-based, it plans to do so in the future. In the meantime, Etha prides itself on circumventing censorship with a moderation system that classifies content into two categories: “constructive or deconstructive”. Nicole Ogloza, co-founder of Etha, says these labels “will be used to encourage people to drop the assumptions and get back to the debate.”

Thus, profiles that initiate constructive conversations get a green label. Those who start these kinds of discussions get “reward points that they can use at crypto exchanges or community points that give them access to exclusive offers”. On the other hand, those with the label “deconstructiv”, are not banned, but rather “receive a red label mentioning that they may not be very friendly”.

This kind of moderation, whether by artificial intelligence, as in the case of Etha, or by community members, has the potential to take the debate about decentralized social media to a whole new level.

Decentralized Social Media Trends

Just like other areas of the decentralized space, there are trends that emerge that determine the success or failure of innovations. When it comes to decentralized social networks, financial integration is a major trend. Mr. Siman calls it “SoFi”.

“We have already seen DeFi and then GameFi. Soon we will see the SoFi. This can involve integrating tips or donations directly into social media, merging platforms like Patreon and Twitter, and creating social tokens for communities.”

It is however important to note that monetization cannot be the only motivation in this type of networks. The hope of a better speech is in itself a good reward. “Constructive feedback also shows how quickly we can resolve issues around policy-making and law-making at the community level, and then find common ground at the national level,” Ms. Ogloza points out.

Completely free networks

Decentralized social networks are still in their infancy. This is partly due to the newness of the whole industry and partly due to the dominance of Big Tech. However, as the world changes, the needs of society evolve. This, both online and offline.

When billionaires publicly take over our online spaces and conflict stifles our freedoms, uncensored and bias-free social media becomes essential. That said, only time will tell how and when these social networks will disrupt the digital world.

Disclaimer

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The War in Ukraine, Elon Musk, and the Importance of Decentralized Social Networks – BeinCrypto


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