Reputation on Blockchain: What will Decentralisation Bring to Social Media?
by Gerald Fenech
Dec 5, 2018
Social networks have evolved from quirky little unknown websites where one could upload a few grainy photos to full blown lifestyle influencers that play a significant role in shaping culture, identity, social values, and even at times determining the course of world events. The technology has come a long way in a relatively short time and if one rolls back to 1997-2003 they will find that social media venues were limited to AOL Instant Messenger and Myspace.
Since then the environment has changed tremendously, to the extent where more than 2.8 billion people use social media on a regular basis. In fact, data from GlobalWebindex shows that people spend roughly 15 minutes longer on social media than they do watching TV and a higher proportion of people use Facebook daily (50%) than those who watch TV (39%). This gap widens when focusing on millennials (54% vs 35%) and nowadays people are on social media for much more than just browsing and passing the time.
Browsing is More than Just a Hobby
Applications like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube now serve as avenues for accessing breaking news, gathering information about events, communicating with a variety of communities and even developing brand awareness and fashion tips.
Some would say that social media and the method in which it is used has actually altered the way people choose to socialise. Whether these changes are damaging to society and a person’s well being are yet to be determined, but the results are clearly observable. Social media has the capacity to compel users to share nearly every thought that crosses their mind and many users post every event and experience they deem to be important. Social media also provides its participants with the ‘inside’ perspective from faraway locales and for some this sense of adventure inspires and connects the inspired to the inspirer.
Apps like Facebook and Instagram have the effect of creating a sense of belonging amongst users and regardless of where a person resides, social media has the ability to connect people to the rest of the world in a very intimate, almost tangible method. Recent statistics show that Facebook alone has 1.49 billion daily users, 2.27 billion monthly users and 88% of them are 18-29 years old. Meanwhile, Twitter has 328 million monthly users, of which 36% are 18-29 year olds. It’s clear that social media and it’s digital communities serve a much larger purpose than providing a digital communities for citizens to peruse and parlay. The events taking place in the digital communities of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become extensions of, or even a part of a person’s daily life.
It’s Not All Unicorns and Rainbows: The Dark Side of Social Media
Now that is all good and dandy but anyone who hasn’t been living under a stone knows that lately social media has not been making news for the social good it provides. As of late, most of the social media discussions have revolved around the re-occurrence of massive data breaches, online bullying, fake profiles, malicious troll factories and various arrays of malware that keylog user data or utilise smartphone and laptop processing power to mine cryptocurrency.
Surprisingly, the majority of these issues are not new and Facebook has repeatedly displayed a rather unique penchant for holding data breaches close to the chest. The company has also demonstrated a propensity for placing profits over the social welfare and safety of people. Now to be fair, Facebook is not alone in dealing with the issue of security. Other recent significant hacks include Equifax, Target and Under Armour, but the most recent Facebook hack was estimated to have impacted at least 30 million user accounts and months earlier the company announced that it had discovered a bug that made nearly 14 million users private posts publicly viewable for days.
This article would be remiss if it didn’t mention the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal and how Facebook and Twitter’s failed to properly authenticate or look into the location of paid user identities and promoted posts may have allowed foreign governments to effectively weaponize social media to impact the result of the 2016 election. Data breaches have become such a serious issue that on more than one occasion both CEO’s of Facebook and Twitter have been summoned to Capitol Hill and EU lawmakers to be grilled on their negligence and lack of an effective response to a series of rather serious data breaches and misuses of their platform.
Both companies conveniently rest on the argument that as freemium media providers they aim to respect users constitutional right of free speech and view access to a free and open internet is an inalienable right. While this is philosophically admirable, it’s a bit of a slightly floppy rationale as the companies in question have implemented policies which are contradictory to this rationale.
Therefore, it’s not a stretch to say social media as we know it is broken. Fortunately there are a sufficient number of non-government mandated solutions which could effectively fix the security and privacy issues plaguing the industry and distributed ledger technology is definitely one of the most cost effective methods.
In the Future Blockchain will Make Social Media Safer and more Equitable
In 2017 cryptocurrency and blockchain technology took the world by storm and there was no shortage of mainstream media outlets hosting discussions about the wonders of bitcoin and blockchain. Televised commercials from IBM to Amazon showcased how blockchain could, would, or already was being used to revolutionize commerce as we know it. Fast forward to the present and cryptocurrency prices have been in an ice age for the majority of 2018. Meanwhile blockchain development, adoption, partnerships and implementation have continued at a startling pace throughout the year.
Today it seems like there is literally a blockchain solution for every problem in the world and the same could be said for social media. If the most common issues plaguing social media providers are data breaches, fake accounts, ‘unethical’ behaviors, and fraudulent businesses posting lucrative schemes then there are blockchain solutions available to address all of these issues.
For example, Oxcert’s versatile blockchain can be used to validate and store data on a personal and institutional scale. A simple dApp allows holders of Oxcert to deploy the non-fungible token with their data to the desired recipient without requiring verification or custody of a third party.
People and companies could easily and securely store their ID’s, certificates, real estate data and medical records on the blockchain.
The non-fungible nature of Oxcert token means that the lent token will be the exact same token returned and nobody can divide, copy, swap or destroy the issued token. Social Media platforms could easily use non-fungible tokens and blockchain to verify user credentials for paid postings by businesses, news stories and user accounts.
Another example of how to secure user data and ensure that all users are truly who they say they are is provided by a New York startup called Humans. Their platform essentially utilises blockchain and smart contracts to support a decentralized peer-to-peer network that allows people to find the help and services they need in the fastest and safest method possible. Their platform effectively blocks bots and fraudsters from setting up profiles as the system uses AI to ensure that people are who they say they are.
The system carries out multilevel verification by requiring users to submit their email, mobile phone number, social accounts or bank card details. Asking users to hand over this amount of data tends to raise the hackles of potential users, but hackers would need to find billions of private keys in order to access user’s private details. Users are also validated by a thorough biographical scoring of pictures, education, their location and references. Finally, a platform specific reputation validation system allows users to upload reviews, likes, testimonials and evaluations.
Since the platform is backed by blockchain technology, it is virtually impossible for one user to deceive or defraud another as all user reviews and and past interactions with others within the Humans ecosystem are stored in the blockchain. Oxcert and IOTA also provide blockchain solutions that work to protect user’s personal data.
Your Personal Data is the Premium for Freemium
Centralized social media companies had initially provided freeware to users under the creed of connecting the world and functioning as a borderless, unregulated brokers of communication, but recent reporting has shown that these companies has ulterior motives. Many have been found to manipulate, monetize and distribute user data to third parties and this creates incredibly rewarding revenue streams for social media platforms.
Users have voiced their disdain for this practice and blockchain solutions such as the one offered by Humans, IOTA and Sociall value the concept of data privacy and ownership. IOTA pioneered a system that restricts service providers and third party affiliates from accessing user data unless the user first permits access to various pre-selected categories of private data and prior to accessing this data users are compensated in micro-payments for access to their private data. Humans’ unique profit sharing system rewards users for participating in the growth of the sharing economy by rewarding 25% of the total platform revenues to active users.
Decentralized Equitable Sharing Economies
Believe it or not, data shows that users are slowly leaving social media platforms over the exact issues discussed earlier in this article and while the core function of social media may not change, the method in which users interact with social media platforms is already in the process of changing.
In the future, social media’s capacity to support a digital marketplaces expand as platforms evolve into digital venues where employers can connect with potential employees, artisans can hawk their wares and entrepreneurs can connect and make pitches to investors. While multinational freemium providers have yet to integrate these features into their platforms, blockchain-based social networks and digital marketplaces like Sociall, Skycoin, Humans,
Omni and Coil all aspire to provide secure decentralized environments for users.
These platforms also ensure that content generators, users and other members of the digital community are fairly compensated for their contributions either in the form of micropayments from other users benefiting from the content, or through revenue sharing programs provided by the platform.
Coil and Steemit allow content generators to benefit from a self-sustaining economy supported by web monetization and consumers of content are able to show their appreciation by sending micropayments content creators rather than paying monthly subscriptions where the majority of funds go to the organization hosting the content. Meanwhile, Humans’ platform will distribute a significant part of monthly revenue to consumers of advertisements. in the future users, partners, and third-party companies will be able to integrate Humans API as a payment channel to other applications.
Multinational corporations are already well aware that the brand loyalty and purchasing decisions of today’s consumers (millennials and beyond) are being increasingly driven by ethical concerns and a corporation’s stance on social responsibility. Multinational social media companies would do well to pay close attention to these changing preferences as consumers have clearly indicated that equitable revenue sharing platforms and secure, decentralized peer-to-peer social networks are what they desire.
Facebook has reportedly begun take a hard look at how blockchain and tokenized assets can improve and enhance their platform but to date, nothing has been revealed. Fortunately, the blockchain sector has plenty of room for growth and application and if the current social media megaliths don’t change with the times, they’ll be swept away by the winds of change and eventually forgotten.
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