How Decentralized Blockchain Consensus Networks are Looking to Disrupt Social Media Platforms
Are Social Media Platforms Free?
Social media platforms have boomed in the last ten years and now, blockchain advocates are looking at how they can improve such platforms. They argue that social media can be “fixed” if it were built upon decentralized, consensus-based networks, rather than corporate-centralized platforms. A few platforms, such as Steemit and Civil, have started turning the idea into a reality.
Of course, developers of new types of systems will still face the same issues that plague traditional social media platforms, such as privacy, identity, and inefficiency. Bypassing theses issues, it seems that there is a positive framework in the works, one that focuses in generating value with content and improving how data travels through the networks.
According to some, one of the greatest impediments to the development of a new social media system based on blockchain technology is the alleged erroneous belief that social media platforms are free. For example, Twitter recently tweeted “We can’t believe this website is free.”
There are those who argue that Twitter and other platforms are not free and in fact, collectively, people are paying for it. In reality, data is a commodity and that is how users are paying to use such platforms.
The argument is based on the idea that data is today’s form of gold and today’s “attention economy.” When individuals use social media platforms, their data is acquired, trafficked, repackaged, and bundled, and the platforms then sell the data to large companies. Worse yet, there is hardly any transparency on how this whole process takes place.
The data economy is run by information aggregators – GAFA – that includes google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. There are also smaller groups included, such as Uber, Netflix, and Twitter.
Many view this system akin to the issue with banks and believe that the same solutions can apply here, as they have with banks.
For example, one of the main goals of the new system is to decentralize trade of data commodities and to create alternative models of trust that do not need centralized coordination. This way, those who are the source of the value can harness its power. Essentially, people can be their “own (data) bank.”
Mining may apply to this system as well. Data commodity is mined by 1) producing and distributing content, and 2) by allocating to certain content and ads a particular amount of a scarce and important resource: attention. Users can then transact the data to social media platforms, and in return, users can receive a selection of content generated on their network that enables them to create a sense of community. People can even grow and improve the value of their data by creating a network of friends and followers. It is also important to recognize that some platforms may pay more for the data – for example, Twitter is known to be much more generous than Facebook in this regard.
One of the main problems with this approach though is that it is necessary to design a system that enables data producers to become less beholden to decentralized aggregators and that makes it easier to develop a decentralized and digital economy where people can trust the data.
This is where it may be best to consider blockchain. A blockchain structure makes it easier to pinpoint the transition of the data and it gives structure to the creator’s bargaining power. As a result, there is a more reasonable distribution of the data commodity’s value. The end goal here is for users to have a greater say in the information they read and view, rather than being fed information provided by advertisements that are chosen by Facebook’s ad sales department.