Blockchain has taken the world in many areas. This technology has evolved tremendously a few decades young and is continuously revolutionizing many areas of modern human lives.
Today social media with more than 3 billion users, has become a critical part of our life. However, people are increasingly becoming skeptical of it as concerns arise regarding the flaws inherent to modern social media, including privacy issues and advertisement frauds.
Blockchain technology appears to have the potential of mitigating common issues that make people wary of popular social platforms. But can it leave a significant impact on how digital networks operate and trigger a new era for social media?
In this article, we will explore how blockchain can attempt to mitigate common problems associated with conventional social media and shed light on some of its shortcomings. So, stick around till the end to see if blockchain-based social networks are the next big thing.
An Introduction to Blockchain Technology
If you are tech savvy and know about blockchain technology and are only here to see if you would be using a blockchain-driven social platform ten years from now, feel free to skip ahead. But for the uninitiated, we will begin by explaining blockchain technology because, from our research, not many people truly know what it is.
In simplest terms, a blockchain is a chain consisting of blocks of information. Blockchain technology enables the secure sharing of digital assets over a peer-to-peer network, where the files are stored within the nodes present on a network.
The distribution of data across several nodes is what makes blockchain distributed or decentralized ledger technology. Being a P2P technology, it eliminates third-party involvement. The data is secure, distributed along with several nodes, and immutable.
These features make blockchain a suitable choice for many areas that influence human lives, especially social media, as we will discuss.
Blockchain is one technology that is definitely worth keeping an eye on. The pace at which it is evolving and the scale at which it is transforming conventional processes makes it a force to be reckoned with.
Let’s go ahead and see how blockchain technology can change the way we think of social media today.
Blockchain and social media: The inception of decentralized social networks.
Social media has quickly grown from being a set of innocent platforms helping people connect with their loved ones to monstrous overlords selling user data and altering how we think. This personality shift has led to a decline in usage of the central social media platforms, Facebook, which is notoriously involved in suspicious data mining and commodifying its users.
Blockchain has the potential of solving the following four major issues of social media and hence initiate a new era of social interaction:
Data Security and Privacy
Who has forgotten the 10-hour long “chit-chat” congresspeople had with none other than Facebook’s CEO and Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg on user data security and usage?
Despite facing backlash and criticism, Facebook, the most significant social platform, never stopped reaching into their users’ data. However, their data collection is suspicious to the point that they have been accused of collecting users’ calls and SMS for years! And it is not just Facebook. All major social platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, are equally notorious for data collection.
Data privacy and security are some of the biggest concerns associated with social media. But, unfortunately, we don’t know the amount and extent of data that our social media platforms can have access starting from the moment we create an account.
Blockchain technology solves this problem by decentralizing social networks. So, with blockchain-based social networks, there is no central entity or a CEO who can access all their users’ data.
Each transaction that takes place over a blockchain network is encrypted and not accessible by a single entity, besides those on the P2P network, which adds to the privacy and security of digital assets and personal information.
Additionally, blockchain social networks allow users to create their profiles without revealing their identities, which reduces the risk of identifying and using this data for malicious or non-malicious purposes.
Blockchain technology also solves the problem of data integrity. Once stored in a blockchain, no data can be deleted and is extremely difficult to tamper with.
Even if a hacker breaks into one of the blocks and changes the information, this activity will alter the identity or “hash” of the entire block, which, in turn, will destroy the integrity of all subsequent blocks.
So, that’s one problem that blockchain can solve, but not without its repercussions, as we will see below.
Unbiased Content Moderation
The next major issue that users have with social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is their biased content moderation.
You see, with centralized social media platforms like the ones mentioned above, the decision-making authority rests with a selected group of people. And these people are bound either by a code of ethics or political responsibilities to censor certain types of content.
Due to the biased censorship issues, social giants have been under fire for a while now. They are blamed for removing volatile content or anything that doesn’t “sit well” with their decision-makers under the pretense of “bugs” and “technical problems.”
On Red Dress Day in Canada, a similar issue came to view when Instagram removed the posts published to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, citing technical problems.
By decentralizing social platforms, blockchain technology eliminates censorship bias and advocates for freedom of speech and rights of expression. Blockchain-backed social media removes third-party, influential moderators and their pet algorithms from the picture by returning the power of content creation, consumption, and moderation back in the hands of the users.
This freedom of expression and lack of censorship attracts silenced activists, radical voices, and even political harbingers to these platforms.
Minds is a blockchain-based social platform that advocates freedom of speech and limits censorship on its platform. This is why it became a focus of attention and attracted more than 100,000 Vietnamese activists running from government-led cybersecurity cracked down and feared being silenced.
Incentives for the Users
Social media platforms have grown rich because of the ad revenue they generate in exchange for user information. For example, Facebook’s revenue experienced a sharp rise from 2020 to 2021.
But many people are now raising voices and demanding social giants to share the revenue they generate in exchange for user information, with the users whose information they take, often without them knowing.
Blockchain-based social networks can do the opposite and offer incentives to the users while promising data security. They often pay their users with token or platform-native currencies when they post good quality content.
Minds is an example of such platforms, paying their users in the form of tokens, which they can then use to boost their posts to reach more people.
Additionally, these decentralized platforms offer users better opportunities for crowdfunding campaigns as they can collect tokens or cryptocurrencies directly from their fellow users through the platform.
Advertisers lose billions in ad fraud. And fraudsters? Well, they can make up to $5 million per day by faking video reviews.
Thinking of switching careers? Think again.
Frauds, lack of transparency, and user trust are three of the most common issues related to digital advertising. However, with the evolution and expansions of blockchain technology into social media advertising, the chances of ad frauds are reducing, so you better stick to your current job.
Blockchain-based social networks allow digital advertisers to track KPIs and ad impressions more accurately, ensuring transparency to the advertisers that they are paying for actual human-generated and not bot-induced results.
In addition to this, as said earlier, blockchain technology offers exceptional data security and privacy benefits. As a result, blockchain advertising eliminates user mistrust that advertising companies are buying their data to target them with relevant ads.
Moreover, with platform-native currencies, these networks offer newer and safer opportunities for marketers to collect user data. For example, a marketing company can reward users in exchange for the data they share. In this way, the user gets something in return for their contribution, and advertisers and marketers have information right from the source.
Decentralization of social platforms with blockchain technology also eliminates friction from the advertising channels. Advertisers no longer have to create separate ad accounts and then wait for the central authorities (like Google) for ad verification, making it easier for companies to connect with their audience and boost their post with the tokens they can earn simply by creating great content.
At this stage we can assume, from the above factors, that decentralized, blockchain-based social platforms have a bright future from the social media sector. Of course not. Who jumps to a conclusion without reading the other side of the story? Not us!
Blockchain-Based Social Media – The Other Side of the Story
Every coin has two sides, good and bad. And decentralized social media comes with its own downsides that include:
Hate Speech and Bullying
With a lack of centralized content moderation, blockchain-driven social platforms fail to guarantee that they won’t publish racist, sexist, or religiously offensive content.
Any information once created in the blockchain stays there forever. It can’t be deleted or edited. Therefore, if a racist individual creates a culturally offensive post on social media, he will not offend people of color on his network. Still, the information created also stays there forever.
Moreover, the inability of users or platform owners to delete user data on demand also makes it non-compliant with the European Union GDPR that necessitates the deletion of data on demand.
To make matters worse, since blockchain social platforms do not necessarily tie back to the original user, therefore, it would be nearly impossible to track and punish the offenders.
Storage and Scalability
Blockchain social networks are relatively small, with Minds having only around 2.5 million users, compared to Facebook’s billions.
But if these P2P social networks were to enter the mainstream digital network, the blockchain nodes may not be able to scale and process the influx of information that will follow large-scale adoption of these platforms.
The ubiquity of blockchain social platforms is easily a decade or two away because we are still technologically immature to migrate entire systems that have found their grounds on centralized social media to decentralized platforms.
For example, centralized social platforms allow easy access to the user database, which supplements marketing and advertising strategies. With blockchain-based social media, this might not be so easy.
So, what’s the verdict? Is the next generation of social media here?
We are standing on the threshold of a blockchain-led social media revolution. However, there are many innovations to be made and many technologies to be developed before the decentralization of social media can take place at scale, and shaking the dominance of centralized social giants having love-hate relationships, and become the next big thing.