Social media has fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other, the way we communicate, the way we spend our time, and even the way we do business. Unfortunately, not all of these changes have necessarily been improvements. One of the commonly cited reasons for this is a lack of content moderation, which allows for the misinformation about critical topics to rapidly spread. Social media companies are also now grappling with issues of censorship, privacy, user control, and politics. These concerns have raised interest the possibility of applying decentralization technology to social media networks.
As far back as 2019, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was thinking about this. In a tweet, Dorsey announced that his platform had started researching and developing a decentralized standard for social media in a project now known as bluesky. In order to see why decentralization may bring about the answers we're looking for, we must first look into the shortcomings of centralized social media.
Institutions such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and even Wikipedia are all centralized: they employ a command structure and changes are made by deliberate decisions. There's a reason why we sometimes use "Facebook" as shorthand for "Mark Zuckerberg." Under the current structure, users have no control over their content because their data is managed and controlled by this central authority.
With Facebook currently hosting over 225 million users, a hack would cause untold damage should that data be compromised. Further, privacy is of great concern because under a centralized system, nothing is truly private nor confidential. Furthermore, tech companies like Facebook and Google (and, by proxy, YouTube) collect a lot of data and users of these platforms have no way of knowing how their data is being used or even stored, nor who has access to it.
So, are blockchain and decentralization the answers? While blockchain was initially built for decentralized finance (DeFi), we have seen how it can be used for other imaginative purposes like smart contracts, decentralized applications, and even voting, but it can soon revolutionize social media as well.
Blockchain technology can fundamentally change way we interact with each other on social media.
We know that blockchain provides data integrity and security, so integrating social media and blockchain can improve privacy, security, data control and management, and more. For example, when we think about user-generated content on social media under the current paradigm, users have little accountability for what they post. A blockchain-backed social media will introduce immutability to make identity verification easier, while also preventing identity theft, addressing fake content, spam, and fraudulent ad impressions.
The introduction of blockchain would likely motivate social media platforms to reevaluate and reorganize their existing systems such as their sharing algorithms, data security policies, and payment methods. Additionally, for companies which rely on social media advertising, this will almost certainly require adaptation on how to adopt crypto transactions into their business.
To conclude, while it may be unfortunate news for some of us, social media platforms are only going to increase in popularity as they become easier to use and more entertaining, but the restrictions they suffer from, particularly as it concerns privacy and security, should not be ignored. In the meantime, while some blockchain-based social media platforms are starting to get off the ground, they are yet to be truly decentralized, and blockchain technology is still yet to be adopted on a mass scale. So, while it's not the most exciting answer, much like back in 2019, we're all still exploring the possibilities.