Sometimes censorship seems like the practice is as old as writing itself and that, for as long as we have writers, we’ll always have someone that is willing to censor or silence them for their own personal gain.
From Socrates’ untimely death to internet sandboxing, censorship has taken many forms throughout history and the truth is that it deprives us of knowledge and keeps us from prospering as a society.
It goes far beyond what you don’t get to read in the newspaper or watch on TV. News and entertainment have a great impact on our society, shaping opinions and influencing the way we experience the world on many levels.
Over time, the Internet has acted as a safe haven for those that seek to find information and those that seek to expose it. However, its centralized, yet global, structure has made it the perfect vehicle for surveillance and censorship, allowing information to be edited and even removed at will.
Blockchain technology can be seen as the tool the Internet was intended to become. Decentralized Blockchain networks grant authority to none, regardless of their wealth or social status. Instead, authority is distributed proportionally throughout participants, creating a balance of opinions and views.
From exchange of value to exchange of information
The first applications for the Blockchain were focused on the exchange of value and not on the exchange of information/knowledge.
However, the evolution was bound to happen and now, complex cryptocurrency platforms like Ethereum and others allow users and developers to explore an infinite number of possibilities with none to tell them what they can or can’t do.
Although these networks allow for complete freedom, there is still much to be done. The information that can be stored on these networks represents but a tiny fraction of the content we can find online and, even though they are gaining traction, most cryptocurrency networks are far from being production ready.
Steemit, for example, has been able to create and maintain a network in which writers are completely free to write about what they want with no form of centralized censorship applied. Not only is Steemit a platform where writers are free to express themselves, but it is also a place where they can be rewarded for their work, depending solely on how well their content is received by the community.
It’s worth noting, however, that Steemit’s reward model has also made it somewhat unreliable, given that whales (users with large holdings) can have a big impact on the writer's’ rewards. This can be done by downvoting content they don’t like or by using upvotes to sway writers into editing their content.
Cointelegraph asked Ricardo Gonçalves, a prominent witness in the Steemit community and the founder of SteemSports and BuildTeam projects, how he felt about this issue.
“There will always be bad actors in any Blockchain community; Bitcoin for example has the issue of mining giants threatening consensus decentralization on the Blockchain and using their influence to steer decisions to suit their own agendas, in my opinion this is a much bigger problem to solve. The great thing is that this issue is outweighed by the many positive initiatives and support coming from the Steem community, who have demonstrated that they would rather use their voting power for the good of the platform.”
Bringing the Internet closer to its original ethos
Changing the way we interact with the web will not happen overnight and it will most likely be a long and arduous process. However, there are promising solutions on the horizon, many of which are leveraging Blockchain technology to bring the Internet closer to its original ethos.
While the Internet itself has much room for improvement, small changes can also drive evolution forth and bring our beloved web back to its original vision (without breaking it along the way).
Archain, for example, allows pages on the Internet to be stored on a Blockchain-like network that can scale to an arbitrary size.
The solution proposed by the Archain team allows a decentralized archive for the Internet to be created, giving users access to deleted pages and allowing them to go-back to uncensored versions of the content they are dealing with.
We asked Sam Williams, CEO of Archain, how a decentralized archive for the Internet can help end censorship.
“We believe that access to history is a human right. By distributing an open archive of historically important documents and web pages across the globe, we are going to make it impossible for one country, or even a group of countries, to censor our collective history.”
Blockchain and copyright issues
On the other hand, we also have copyright issues, a polarizing subject. While some defend that all information should be freely accessible, others insist that authors must be rewarded for their work. While both are valid points, Blockchain technology may help reach a compromise in which both views are implemented.
Kim Dotcom, the Internet entrepreneur behind the Megaupload file sharing platform, has come up with a solution that can make both sides of the copyright debate happy. This solution is called K.im, a decentralized platform in which uploaders (a.k.a pirates) will be able to set a price for the files.
While viewers can pay to download the content, broadcasters, studios and other copyright holders can purchase ownership of the pirated files and profit from its sales. This allows the files to be accessible, while also covering the losses of the copyright holders to an extent.
Kim Dotcom seems extremely confident about the project. In a previous interview he stated:
“It is the holy grail of copyright enforcement. It is my gift to Hollywood, the movie studios, and everyone else. [...] Rightsholders can turn piracy traffic into revenue and users can access the content on any platform. Since every file is a store, it doesn't matter where it ends up.”
While all of the aforementioned projects are not a definite solution to censorship problem, they are providing citizens with the tools their need to protect themselves from it while building the basis for what can one day become a truly free and open Internet.