Adam Stoner

Blockchain social media

Wikipedia describes the blockchain as:

a decentralised, distributed, public, digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved record cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent [records]

Wikipedia describes social media as:

computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks

On May 15th 2020, I dumped £2.50 GBP worth of a cryptocurrency called Ethereum into a wallet and, for the $0.10 USD it cost to make the transaction, wrote this message forever on the Ethereum blockchain:

This is uncensorable, distributed, private and immutable social media.

Here’s what I mean by that…

Social media networks are controlled by single entities – companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter – who are free to select their own rules and enforce them on their own terms. These companies police public platforms that act as our modern-day town squares without oversight.

Whether you believe that social networks are getting right or wrong when it comes to content moderation is beside the point; removing voices from these platforms does not remove the ideas that these voices espouse, it simply pushes the people that follow those ideas underground, makes them feel attacked and maligned, and reduces their exposure to counter-arguments, all of which serves only to further radicalise them.

I believe in a radically open internet.

I imagine using the already well-established Ethereum network as the underlying power behind a social media platform, using addresses as usernames and the ability to add input data to transactions as posts.

Ethereum holds value (~$200 USD at the time of writing) and each transaction requires a monetary investment (~$0.10 at the time of writing), both of which are economic barriers to entry, but also advantages. The users pay for the network, not advertisers, which not only heightens user privacy but also makes immoral hi-jinx, the likes of which we saw in the 2016 US Presidential Election, highly improbable.

For the first time in human history, this could spell a communication network that is not reliant on the trust of others, a network that is entirely immutable, and, provided you didn’t self-reveal your identity, also anonymous.

All it would require is a nice UI.

16 May 2020

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