From the early days of usenet groups and internet bulletin boards to modern social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, there have been controversies that make some people cast a crooked eye at social media, the internet, and human nature. Personally, I think human nature is the biggest culprit. Technology is simply a medium through which we fallible beings express ourselves. Nevertheless, there have been some doozies.
The following controversies are not meant to cast aspersion on anyone in particular or any group of individuals. Rather, it’s to help us understand the weaknesses to technology and hope that the next generation of the web is an improvement over the last.
The Napster Controversy
Technically, Napster wasn't a social media platform, but as a peer-to-peer file sharing service it can be considered a social application.
The World Wide Web was still in diapers when Napster launched. The year was 1999. While the site offered peer-to-peer file transfers, which was nothing new at the time, what set Napster apart was the fact that it specialized in music files. Anyone could upload a file and share it with their friends, and strangers too. It seems innocuous until you realize that the files people were sharing were copyrighted works of art that professional musicians had recorded and that professional music publishing companies bankrolled.
There’s no doubt Napster changed the music industry. There likely wouldn’t be a Spotify today if Napster didn’t come along to challenge the status quo.
It only took a year for the major music labels and several large musical acts to feel threatened by Napster and take them to court. The whole world debated a music buyer’s right to freely share a product she purchased legally versus the artist’s right to maintain control over and profit from their hard work. In the end, the artists won. But so did consumers.
Napster was forced to change its business model, but what if blockchain technology had existed then? It’s likely that the state of the music industry would look a lot like it does today with musical products sold as MP3s using microtransactions on an immutable and transparent ledger that protects both artist and consumer rights.
The Cambridge Analytica Scandal
All it takes for one company to win some enemies is a taste of success, and a few high-profile scandals. Maybe even some abusive company policies. And a scintilla of blindness to one’s own weaknesses. Facebook has it all.
But the one thing that is certain about Facebook’s mark in the world that can be used to justify the need for blockchain technology is The Cambridge Analytica Scandal.
This one incident involves all the drama and suspense of a political thriller. The bottom line is that Facebook failed to protect user data. More than 87 million people had their personal data harvested from the platform and used for political messaging.
The interesting thing about this is that Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook has implemented plans to prevent such incidents from happening again. He also said some of that had already been implemented years before. The problem is the people who acquired the data from Facebook did so using Facebook’s own tools. They weren’t bugs, but features of the platform.
Data security is a complex topic, and I’m no expert. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see that the way Facebook organizes its data on users is the same way that every other company born last century organizes data on its users—and that method is not secure. It never has been. That’s why, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, there were more than 8 billion data records exposed.
Blockchain technology is far more secure and it puts data ownership squarely where it belongs—in the hands of the individual.
The Twitter and Donald Trump Divorce
On January 8, 2021, days before he left office, Twitter suspended the personal account of President Donald Trump. Justification for this was the belief that the president incited the attack on the U.S. Capitol building two days before. Regardless of whether you think the former president is guilty—the U.S. Senate has proclaimed that he is not—there must be a part of every human being who questions whether any social media website should be in the position to determine an individual’s public and social fate.
Even Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, believes platforms like Twitter should have more transparency on these matters. Of course, he also defends the account ban.
There is a fine line between yelling fire in a crowded movie theater, even when there isn’t one, and yelling at the fire one believes is there despite the evidence to the contrary. But those questions are for courts, not for social media platforms. It’s fine to debate the day’s events, even to take sides, but it’s a different thing altogether to trust the platform in making that decision for the entire world.
The immutability feature of blockchain technology should prevent platforms from overstepping their bounds and banning accounts on political grounds.
Can Blockchain Technology Save Us?
I don’t believe any technology is perfect. Every technology has its pros and cons. Blockchain technology will not prevent copyright theft, data misuses, or political inanities. One thing the advent of blockchain technology has done is give impetus to a discussion on exactly what we expect from people in positions of authority (whether public or private).
If we look to the features embedded in the technology, we may find that blockchains can help us solve problems that were difficult or impossible to solve before. I don’t expect heaven on earth, but I do believe cooler heads can prevail, the right people should own the right data, and personal security should not be compromised.
I am not a financial advisor, nor do I give financial advice. The above information should not be considered financial advice but is for informational purposes only. Neither I nor Cryptowriter are responsible for financial losses incurred as a result of acting on this information. Please consult a financial advisor before making any financial decisions.
This post is published for Cryptowriter in association with Voice.
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This post was first published at Voice.