“Rather than relying on a few giant platforms to police speech online, there could be widespread competition, in which anyone could design their own interfaces, filters, and additional services, allowing whichever ones work best to succeed, without having to resort to outright censorship for certain voices,” Masnick created. “It would allow end users to determine their own tolerances for different types of speech but make it much easier for most people to avoid the most problematic speech, without silencing anyone entirely or having the platforms themselves make the decisions about who is allowed to speak.”
The decentralized social media Mastodon gives one version of just how this could function. Anyone can establish a Mastodon web server as well as permit individuals to register for an account. Once you have an account on a Mastodon web server, you can adhere to individuals both on that particular web server as well as on various other Mastodon web servers. The proprietors of each web server established plans for appropriate habits as well as web content by themselves web servers, as well as can obstruct various other web servers from linking to their web server.
For instance, when the far-right Twitter choice Gab, which when organized blog posts from the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, signed up with the Mastodon network previously this year, several Mastodon web servers as well as Mastodon customer applications outlawed Gab, leaving it quarantined from much of the bigger Mastodon environment.
That strategy offers private neighborhoods much more control over their experience as well as if taken on by Twitter would certainly suggest the firm wouldn’t be the single mediator of what can as well as can’t be seen online. But it doesn’t solve all the problems that big platform companies face. For example, quarantining problematic content does not address troubles related to misinformation and disinformation. Propaganda circulated in private groups, where it’s hard to counter, has led to tragic results in India and elsewhere.
Even if Twitter follows a model similar to Mastodon’s, it could end up practically just as centralized if the vast majority of users stick with the original, company-controlled Twitter.
Meanwhile, some developers and entrepreneurs are worried about the long-term viability of such a project at Twitter. The company once gave outside developers more freedom to create Twitter clients and other tools, but gradually limited those capabilities over the years. “Thousands of developers dedicated themselves to projects built on Twitter’s API, making the platform accessible to the masses,” Joe Colangelo, founder of the parking space reservation app company Boxcar Transit, tweeted. “Their reward was Twitter creating a walled garden and throttling their access. Why try again?”
Dorsey alluded to this history in his tweets. “For a variety of reasons, all reasonable at the time, we took a different path and increasingly centralized Twitter,” he wrote. “But a lot’s changed over the years.”
The huge question is whether Twitter will embrace existing standards or create new ones. One existing possibility is ActivityPub, the protocol used by Mastodon as well as many other services. In his tweets, Dorsey specifically namechecked blockchain technology, the distributed ledger/database that underlies Bitcoin as well as other cryptocurrencies, saying it “points to a series of decentralized solutions for open and durable hosting, governance, and even monetization.”
Mastodon and Bitcoin take two different approaches to decentralization. Like email, Mastodon is “federated.” The app you use to send email, Microsoft Outlook for instance, doesn’t send or receive email directly from other people. It sends it to and from email servers. Likewise, anyone can host a Mastodon server and talk to people on other Mastodon servers. But those servers still play a crucial role in storing and routing those messages. Bitcoin is “distributed,” much like a peer-to-peer file sharing service. People on the Bitcoin network use Bitcoin software to connect directly with other Bitcoin individuals. Scuttlebutt is an existing protocol for distributed social networking, yet it isn’t based upon the blockchain.
It’s a shock that Dorsey is also drifting the suggestion of a decentralized Twitter. But it’s still simply that: a concept.
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