Blockchain Social Media
The recent Cambridge Analytical scandal brought home to many people the deep flaws in social media and how easily people’s privacy could be breached and used for any purpose. That is not the only problem with social media of course; prior to that scandal there had been unease about the way social media operates generally, its potential to be misused in various ways, including bullying others, tracking shopping habits and forcing adverts on users, storage and use of personal data, susceptibility to hacking, etc.
Inevitably, attention has turned to how blockchain can be used to disrupt the social media space in the same way it has disrupted other spheres, such as the economic and financial sectors. As blockchain seems to have become the solution to the internet’s shortcomings, there’s no reason why social media, which has borne most of the brunt of internet’s flaws, cannot benefit as well from advances in blockchain technology.
The problem with social media
Social media in its current form, has many shortcomings, some of which include:
- Social media is almost entirely advert-based. Although users log on to express meet people and exchange ideas, the platforms themselves prefer to bombard them with distracting advertisements which are often of no value to the recipient. Platform users and content creators do a lot of work sharing links, posting content and information which translate into massive revenue for social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but such content creators and users are neither rewarded nor recognized as valuable shareholders.
- As alluded to above, social media cannot be trusted with confidential data or information because privacy is not assured on it. Facebook, for instance, sacked one of its security engineers recently for using his privileged position to stalk women online. Almost at the same time Twitter had to ask it’s over 300 million users to change their passwords because they had been compromised.
- Another shortcoming of social media in its current form is that it is susceptible to censorship by any government that wants to do so. Currently Facebook is banned in Iran, China and North Korea. And even those social media platforms carry out their own censorship.
- Fake news proliferates on social media, with users passing on info that could be potentially damaging, without any verification, and there is little to no mechanism to prevent this from happening.
New Social Media: Can Things Change?
Blockchain technology has the potential to address these challenges, including the ability to help social media fight fake news, authenticate who their users are and quantify the worth of the content they create or post as a basis for possible compensation. A relatively new social media platform known as Steemit is already showing that this is possible. Creators of contents posted on Steemit receive some form of compensation. It uses an up-voting method which allows readers to vote for the content they like and consequently pay for it. A cryptocurrency is tied to each vote and when a reader votes, payment is triggered and a pre-determined fraction of the currency is remitted to the creator of the content. Steemit has demonstrated how social media could work better in other ways:
- Steemit is also changing how social media platforms are managed and run. Unlike Facebook which has banned all cryptocurrencies’ advertisements, censorship is negligible on Steemit.
- Data security. Steemit also takes advantage of blockchain technology of distributed public ledger which eliminates the use of a central server that could expose stored data to thieves and hackers. Data and information exists across the entire blockchain network and no single person or entity can edit, erase or remove it.
- The site is accessible to anyone on the globe and each one has the chance to get paid for the content they post. Membership, compared with others like Facebook, is still microscopic but with the incentive of payment to participants, the number keeps shooting up while the content posted is rich and is of high quality. This could be a good way to fight fake news.
While Steemit is showing what is possible, it will take quite some time, for new blockchain-based social media to replace and compete with existing platforms because of costs involved. Subscribers are used to accessing social platforms free of charge, and many users might shy away from blockchain social media platforms where they may be required to pay for access. However, given that new and innovative ways are constantly being developed to use blockchain, even that barrier could be eliminated soon.
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