What If, Together, We Owned Our Social Networks?
The Problem with Privately, as well as Government, Owned Social Networks
The fact is, today’s social networks have become public utilities. They’re part of our societal infrastructure, informing every aspect of our social, professional, political, and financial lives. And yet they remain owned and controlled by profit-driven corporations, creating (at least) three major problems–data privacy, data ownership, and the freedom to publish and associate.
Some have suggested the government nationalize them. But having the government own and control what’s communicated and who communicates with whom seems like a recipe for disaster, perpetuating the same problems of privacy, property, and free speech.
Enter Socially-Owned Social Platforms
Blockchain and cryptocurrency offer a solution: social networks owned and controlled by their participants via what’s called a DAO–a decentralized autonomous organization. DAOs remove the middleman, relying instead on transparent code no single person can change while allowing participants to engage directly and freely with each other — driver with passenger, homeowner with guests, brand with individual, person with person.
With no middleman, there’s no one to invade our privacy, no one to take the profits from our data, and no one to censor us.
We share so much with tech companies–our names, phone numbers, and friends. We post about details of our private lives, proclaim our interests, sign e-petitions. And then there’s all of our passive data — every time you search, drive, use a connected device, you’re giving your data away. But if we built these social platforms on the blockchain, you’d be the gatekeeper of all your data to do with what you will. And just like that, data privacy is secured.
Whose property is this data, anyway? And what about our attention which we give so obsessively to social networks? It seems unfair that while we create all the content and give our attention, the only people who profit are corporate owners.
Thanks to DAOs, we have the ability to deliver the revenue from these platforms automatically and continuously to users — to you and me. Or we could all decide to use those funds to, say, clean the ocean, house the homeless, feed the hungry. That is, rather than the tremendous wealth generated from our information, attention, and engagement going to corporate owners, DAOs allow this wealth to be used for the good of all.
Freedom of Speech & Association
Facebook has been accused of eroding democracy through the proliferation of “misinformation.” But who, exactly, gets to decide what’s information and what’s disinformation? I, for one, don’t trust either Facebook or the government.
In a socially-owned social platform, people are free to decide what they want to see and what they don’t without the profit motive of Facebook deciding for them. If someone publishes something decidedly hateful and malicious, the community can build ways not to censor per se but to deprivilege that content.
Innovation for the Good of All
Over the last 25 years, the dominant goal of Silicon Valley innovation has been to extract as much value from as many people as possible to be hoarded by as few people as possible. Today, thanks to the technology powering DAOs, we can innovate for the good of all and build socially-owned social platforms in which we can do everything we do now but with privacy, freedom, and the greatest motivator of all: revenue paid automatically and continuously to us.
The Lesson of Cryptocurrency: We Can Design Better Money
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