Centralized Social Media- The Good, Bad and UGLY
The emergence of social media has revolutionized communication. We live in a world where almost everything has been digitalized. While we cannot negate the positive impact of social media it is imperative to address the ills associated with its use.
Centralized social media infrastructure has been under scrutiny owing to data breaches, privacy concerns, misuse, and abuse of information amongst other reasons for several years. The proposed use of decentralized technologies such as blockchain as an alternative has been gaining a lot of traction as individuals today are fully aware of the ethical and practical weaknesses associated with the use of centralized social media.
Today, social media has insinuated itself into our lives making it the primary source from where most of us derive all our information whether it's related to politics or fashion. Social media giants are unable to introduce regulations that can keep up with the exponential growth they're witnessing. The world of social media is highly complex and fast-evolving, and coming up with a framework that'll provide ethical guidelines is like shooting in the dark. Furthermore, social media is plagued by the issue of underpaid creators. While these giants make tons of money, creators aren't fairly rewarded for their efforts. In other words, they get pennies on the dollar.
Listed below are some of the concerns associated with centralized social media-
- They view users as products and not as customers.
- They may be responsible for connecting people better than any other available service, but the price users pay for this connection is extremely high. Data today is a treasure, and these companies gather truckloads of data.
- This data is then sold to advertisers who use it for targeted advertising. Basically, what this means is users and the data obtained are the product and advertising companies are the customers of these social media giants.
- Social media is designed to be addictive which is why these companies have the upper hand. They're not ashamed of gathering and selling personal data.
- Moreover, the same data is not only used to sell us products but also to influence our thinking and alter our perspective across social and political spheres.
- Personal information is user property and as such should be handled more carefully. Companies fail to exercise relevant care when handling user information making privacy compliance a major concern.
- Centralized platforms exercise a certain degree of control over the content we put out. They do not give us complete freedom as our content is subject to policing/censorship.
- Another critical vulnerability of the centralized social media infrastructure is that it is prone to hacks. The 2018 attack on Facebook which led to a data leak of over 50 million users, proves companies that use centralized storage for data are exposed to data hacks that directly impact users.
One cannot deny that social media presents both risks and opportunities to users. It has bridged the gap between people by providing ease in real-time communication, it is the perfect outlet for creativity but at the same time, our personal information is subject to impersonation, theft, and other vices.
One of the main reasons why social media is addictive is that it adapts and presents findings/content that conform to user tastes and preferences. However, companies are able to do so only because they collect mass amounts of data, and although the end result is effective to several businesses it amounts to a breach of user privacy.
Advancement in technology and in particular decentralization of social media is the solution to the aforementioned problems.
Decentralized Social Media Platforms/Applications
A contentious issue associated with the use of centralized applications is the exploitation and sale of user data to businesses. Moreover, misinformation, hate speech, algorithmic bias, behavioral manipulation, and mass surveillance are all byproducts of centralized networks.
Blockchain or open-source social media platforms possess the ability to tackle censorship, privacy, data breach, and other ills associated with centralized social media platforms. These networks are free and open-source which amounts to them being user-controlled. In other words, these networks return control to individuals by empowering them. Users on decentralized networks have the freedom to interact how they wish to and with whom they wish to. They're in complete control of their identities and data. Censorship isn't an issue as developers only provide guidelines and leave the rest to individuals/smaller collectives.
Why these networks are better? They assure privacy, freedom of speech, and DECENTRALIZATION.
- The use of decentralized networks prevents the misuse of user data. Moreover, users are not viewed as commodities.
- Greater freedom of expression as no single entity has control over what one can publish or not.
- Privacy and security of data are not an issue as user interactions are protected using cryptography.
The lesser of the EVIL
Decentralized social media infrastructure isn't one without shortcomings, it has its share of problems that are listed below-
- While censorship is prevalent in centralized networks, its complete absence can result in inappropriate content being released.
- Decentralized networks prohibit redaction of content, whatever you put out there is set in stone.
- These networks make it difficult to verify user authenticity.
- These networks also have a chance of data loss, hacking, and theft.
- Not all decentralized networks have apps making it inconvenient for users to interact on the go.
- Decentralized networks have relatively smaller audiences when compared to their centralized counterparts. Centralized portals spend huge amounts of money to garner attention and to attract a wider user base.
Subsocial- A decentralized social platform on Polkadot
Centralized social media infrastructure gets a lot of flak for its fundamental flaws and we know there is immense scope for improvement - ENTER Subsocial- a user-owned decentralized platform.
A next-generation cryptocurrency-based blockchain social media platform that combines all the advantages of traditional social media with the power of cryptocurrency, NFTs, and smart contracts. Subsocial intends to solve the existing problems of the centralized social platforms. It gives the power to the users to choose the data they want to share without any censorship. It also wants to remove the disparity between what social platforms earn and what they end up paying the content creators.
Subsocial is a platform that brings to you the power of blockchain with built-in monetization methods. It is an open platform for decentralized social networks and marketplaces which are censorship-resistant. Think of it as a decentralized version of Reddit, Instagram, or Medium, where a set of subreddits or blogs run on their own chain. It is a Web 3 Foundation grant recipient and one of the first 17 projects handpicked by blockchain developer Parity to participate in its Substrate Builders Program.
Subsocial consists of an independent blockchain built on Substrate (which hosts its custom social networking modules) and a decentralized application that functions as a social network. It will help creators to effortlessly build their own decentralized versions of social networks, marketplaces, and platforms such as Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, and Medium, allowing its social media users to do anything that they’re used to doing on traditional social platforms. It will help both the creators and users to share fairly in the success and growth of their social media platforms.
Subsocial can be that alternative that can bring disruption in the centralized world of social media. Personally, I wish the team all the success because we need projects that safeguard user interest and don't auction off data. Subsocial is the future for it won't map our connections for profit or track our social lives for personal gains. And guess what, we are the ones making that choice.
This post is written as part of Subsocial's Ambassador Program.
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