Ross Ulbricht has been communicating with the world from behind bars through a Twitter page and a Medium profile that supporters have established and maintained for him. He writes his transmissions by hand or dictates them over the phone because as a prisoner he does not have access to the internet.
Ross is currently facing life in prison for his involvement with operating the Silk Road online marketplace that was popular for facilitating private drug sales online.
The draconian sentence that was handed down to Ross was made possible by a popular narrative that he was some type of ruthless kingpin who was willing to murder to protect his empire. Allegations that he hired hitmen to assassinate an associate who was working with federal agents were spread widely through the media, but the accusations never held up in court due to lack of evidence.
In fact, multiple agents who were involved with the investigation were later arrested themselves for stealing Bitcoin from Silk Road wallets. These same agents had access to the Silk Road logins at the time when the threats were made. Even the person who was said to be the target of the alleged hit, Curtis Green, does not believe the story that was spun by prosecutors.
Sadly, much of the world still believe this story, and people still use this as justification to keep him behind bars even though he was never even charged with the crime. The major Hollywood propaganda film that was released about the case certainly won’t help either.
Although he is unable to talk about his case and set the record straight because he is still fighting for his release, Ross’s posts are giving him the ability to show the world who he really is. His thoughtful posts on Twitter discuss his situation and life in general, while on Medium he posts more technical writings on crypto and blockchain. His most recent post on Medium is a long read, but it is well worth checking out.
Ross proposes a decentralized social media protocol that would put power in the hands of the users and developers instead of a centralized entity. This is similar to the Decentralized Autonomous Organization concept that we discussed in previous articles.
He also discussed how concepts like identity and reputation could all be built into the design without sacrificing privacy. He also gave an in-depth explanation of how content moderation would work on a decentralized social media protocol that was built to be censorship-resistant.
Ross writes that “Each interface provider will choose how to filter and display content. In turn, users will be able to choose from a wide variety of options and can even change filters and interfaces day-to-day or moment-to-moment depending on their mood. No one will complain of being banned or censored unfairly again because every user has the right to speak, and every other user has the right to stop listening.”
He goes on to make the case for disrupting the business model of traditional social media by allowing the users and content creators to share in the value that they create.
To some extent, the blockchain industry is already pushing in this direction. A similar vision for social media was shared by Ethereum and Lukso developer Fabian Vogelsteller during a recent interview about the architecture of Web 3.0.