The concept of using blockchain and decentralised tech to counter the fundamental flaws in social media is nothing new, but this week the elusive figure known as Diamondhands, creator of BitClout, brought the concept firmly back to the fore.
Earlier this year Diamonhands attracted a flurry of media attention from the tech and crypto worlds with the launch of BitClout, a novel social network with tokens, the value of which is determined by the popularity of the user.
This week Diamondhands returned to the public eye to not only revealed his identity – that of former Google engineer Nader Al-Naji – but also to shed some light on exactly what he is doing with BitClout and a new blockchain constructed from its underlying technology, DeSo (Decentralised Social).
In an ambitious bid to create an open-source alternative to the likes of Facebook et-al, Al-Naji has raised over $200 million from a list of notable crypto and Silicon Valley investors and aims to disrupt the world of traditional social media with a new decentralised model for content distribution.
So, what could decentralised social media look like?
With Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and others acting to combat online discussion perceived as encouraging right-wing anti-government violence and the suspension of the then U.S. President’s Twitter account, the ethical and practical weaknesses at the heart of Big Tech’s control of our communications have never before been so prominent. And it’s definitely not just the alt-right and MAGA-oriented being targeted, Google also recently threatening to remove the Facebook alternative minds.com from the Android Play Store if it didn’t remove content which Google deemed to be offensive.
Add to this many of us also have concerns of Big Tech’s hold over our data and its AI’s monitoring, modelling and guiding us, with the objective of not only milking us and keeping us looking at certain apps and websites, but also manipulating our decisions (think Cambridge Analytica).
It could be said that the submission of our data, our minds, hearts and bank accounts to the corporate control of the Big Tech firms is a small price to pay for the daily feed of social media posts to keep us entertained, butthe capability to deliver a very different social media functionality based on decentralised algorithms and computer power is definitely there.
Ownership and control could be decentralised with major decisions about social network structure being made democratically. Code could be open source, giving everyone the ability to understand the algorithms placing images and videos into their feeds and people into their friendship circles using AI that has the ability to explain the reasons behind its judgements.
A decentralised social media infrastructure could negate the need to ban persons or topics from a platform, transparently operated AI systems could rate posts and posters to create a system where no user stumbles across offensive or disturbing posts without actively seeking them out. And remember, whilst helping users avoid any unwanted hate and stupidity these same AI systems could help guide users to the multitude of magnificent ideas and amazing creations being put out there every minute of every day which due to current centralised internet information architectures often struggles to find its deserved audience.
So, is DeSo going to become the next big thing in social media?
Only time will tell, certainly the core technology to enable profoundly more ethical and beneficial social media networks exists. Certainly, it is an ambitious project, but with the backing of a veritable who’s who of crypto and Silicone Valley (think Winklevoss capital, Sequoia, Coinbase Ventures, Pantera Capital, Polychain Capital and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian), maybe Al-Naji can take on the financial and software-developer firepower of the centralised Big Tech world?
One thing is for certain though, much like many other industries that are sensing the impending revolution of blockchain technology, whether excited by it or not, decentralised change is coming to social networks as we know them.