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Unless you haven’t been paying attention to important news, you are fully aware that the internet is under attack. Net neutrality is under threat from Internet service providers (ISPs), governments are cracking down on online content, and social media platforms are censoring users more than ever before.
This heightened attitude of censorship has led many to believe that the internet is no longer the free and open platform it once was. And while this may be true to some extent, there is still one corner of the internet that remains relatively untouched by censorship: the decentralized web or Web3.
So where did the need to censor dissent voices on the internet come from? What are the conditions that make such a thing possible? In this article we will do a full case study.
China and tolerant censorship
One of the best-known examples of internet censorship is the Great Firewall of China, a system of filters and blocks that the Chinese government uses to control what its citizens can see online. While the Great Firewall is often talked about in hushed tones, it’s important to remember that it’s not all-encompassing.
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The Great Firewall of China is not absolute; it is permeable. It doesn’t block everything, but it selectively blocks, in a way designed to be partially permeable, to let some information in and out.
The Chinese government does not block any website or information it disagrees with. Instead, it adopts a strategy of what might be called “permissive censorship.” This concept has been thoroughly analyzed by Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
In other words, the Great Firewall of China is not trying to completely isolate its citizens from the rest of the world. Instead, it allows a certain amount of information to flow in and out while still controlling the overall story.
The Chinese government has managed to get away with this form of censorship as it controls the country’s entire internet infrastructure. This gives them a significant advantage over other countries when it comes to censoring online content.
However, this advantage is starting to disappear. As more and more people around the world access the internet, the need for censorship-resistant platforms that cannot be controlled by any government becomes more and more apparent.
Silicon Valley and the Great American Oppression
First of all, this is in no way an expression of political inclination. The following is a technical analysis of how social media companies in the United States censor their users.
It’s no secret that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been censoring more and more content in recent years. This trend has only accelerated in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, with both Facebook and Twitter implementing new policies addressing the so-called “misinformation.”
While these new policies may be well-intentioned, they have had a chilling effect on free speech online. In particular, they have led to the censorship of much political content that falls outside the mainstream narrative.
Of course, there is a valid argument that dangerous stories are best kept out of the reach of the general public. However, it is important to remember that social media platforms are not just another publisher. They are unique in that they have an almost universal range. This gives them an incredible amount of power when it comes to shaping public discourse.
And while Silicon Valley may claim they are using this power for good, it’s worth noting that many of these companies have a clear political bias. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have been accused of censoring conservative voices on their platforms.
How would the Web3 model be different?
The argument of decentralization versus centralization for Web3 has been made countless times before – so let’s go into detail. We’ll look at Web3’s architecture and how it would prevent censorship from an implementation perspective.
The policies of private companies are often hidden from the public, making it difficult to hold them accountable. However, the decentralized nature of Web3 would make censorship much harder to hide.
For example, let’s say Facebook decides to censor a particular post. Under the current system, this decision would be made behind closed doors by a small group of people. However, in a decentralized system, this decision should be made by consensus among all stakeholders.
DAOs and Web3 Governance
Governance in Web3 is still an area of development, but there are a few proposed models that would make censorship much more difficult. For example, the “decentralized autonomous organization” (DAO) is a type of organization that is controlled by code rather than by people.
The code of a DAO would be designed to reflect the will of the community. This would make it much more difficult for one person or group to censor content without the consent of the wider community.
There are a number of other proposed models for Web3 governance, but the DAO is one of the most promising. These are still early days, but such types of decentralized governance structures can make censorship much more difficult, if not impossible.
Will Web3 Survive Government Intervention?
Of course, the big question to ask yourself is: Can Web3 survive government intervention?
This is a difficult question to answer because it is difficult to predict the future. It’s worth noting, however, that many of the same technologies that would be used to build censorship-resistant platforms are also being used to build privacy and security tools.
One of the hallmarks of a free society is the ability to communicate freely without fear of censorship. It is clear that we are entering an era where censorship is becoming more and more common.
One way governments tend to intervene is by requiring platforms to remove certain types of content. For example, the Chinese government requires all social media platforms to censor content deemed “sensitive”.
The good news is that until now, Web3 applications have been largely immune to these types of interventions. For example, Ethereum has been used to censorship resistant applicationssuch as decentralized exchanges and privacy-focused messaging apps.
This suggests that there is a high probability that Web3 applications will be able to survive government intervention.
The Bottom Line on Web3 and Resistance to Censorship
The trend of increasing censorship by social media companies is alarming and has a chilling effect on freedom of expression online. However, the decentralization of the Internet enabled by Web3 offers a way to counter this trend.
The use of blockchain technology, distributed ledger systems and cryptographic techniques would make it much more difficult for censors to tamper with or remove content. In addition, the use of these technologies would make it more difficult for censors to block access to certain content.
The decentralization of the internet is not a panacea, but it does provide a way to fight back against the increasing trend of censorship by social media companies. And that’s why Web3 is the ultimate catalyst of censorship resistance.
In the following article: Silicon Valley has been hailed as the center of innovation and technology entrepreneurship, but that naturally leads to a problematic geographic imbalance. We’ll take a look at how Web3 companies have emerged outside of traditional tech hubs and what this means for the industry’s future.
Daniel Saito is CEO and co-founder of StrongNode.
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