AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Earlier this month, Big Tech “whistleblower” Frances Haugen returned to Capitol Hill to testify, in no uncertain terms, that Big Tech companies are intentionally engaging in political censorship while explicitly encouraging the proliferation of “extremist” content online. While the issues she revealed undeniably demand attention, her proposed solutions – in short, greater government control of social media – left many Republican lawmakers skeptical of Haugen’s agenda and deeply concerned about the implications for Americans’ First Amendment freedoms and privacy rights.
Right as the calls to regulate and break up Big Tech are heating up, however, another path is presenting itself—a solution to the censorship problem conservatives have identified. It’s a solution grounded not in government control, but in freedom and innovation. It turns out that the same technology behind Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies may hold the potential to eliminate both government and private sector censorship of free speech online.
Alternately known as Web 3.0 and Blockchain, this technology has already taken the financial world by storm. The key breakthrough is a bit of computer science wizardry that allows information to be stored and accessed on a completely decentralized basis, outside the control of any single entity, whether it be the Federal Reserve or a centralized social media giant like Twitter. So-called crypto-currencies, for instance, do not rely on traditional financial institutions and run instead on decentralized software that cannot be changed by any one institution—only through an elaborate process that requires the consent of millions of users. This is why many see Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies as a possible solution to inflation. No one can arbitrarily inflate the currency, not even its creator.
But while Bitcoin has become mainstream, what few have realized is that the same core technology could be used to create decentralized social media platforms and search technologies. There is an emerging industry of startups seeking to create exactly that, and if successful, these platforms could be literally un-censorable and incorruptible. They could also be designed from the ground up to be free of the toxic and even addictive algorithms many have alleged are promoted by traditional social media platforms.
Traditionally, the posts, photos, and comments users put on social media are stored on servers owned and operated by a small oligarchy of Big Tech companies. This gives them tremendous power to regulate and censor individual content—and when the left wants to “deplatform” someone, it is often a one-stop shop: Amazon can kick you off their digital bookstore, off their web servers, off their payment processor, and off their mobile app-store. In addition, many of these tech giants have perfected the art of combing through users’ data to identify users’ political values, personal interests, and even emotional vulnerabilities. Further, they can use these centralized algorithms to control what content you see and who can see your content.
It is no wonder the left is seeking greater control of Big Tech platforms: it puts unimaginable power at their disposal. Americans will remember Twitter’s censorship of the New York Post’s bombshell revelations of the content on a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden that implicated then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in corruption scandals. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later admitted that censoring the story was wrong, and even Politico has since corroborated the veracity of the information on the laptop. Social media companies also censored claims that COVID-19 may have leaked from a Chinese lab, another story that was later verified as not only possible, but likely.
Blockchain technology works in a fashion that could make all of this Big Tech manipulation literally impossible. Instead of storing data on centralized servers, this technology decentralizes data across a wide swath of users. For this reason, Blockchain-based search and social media platforms would effectively cut out the “middleman.” Instead of running on the servers of Google or Amazon, the software would run on the computers of millions of users all over the world.
These blockchain social media and search platforms are still in early development. Some are currently available, but none have been adopted on a large scale. Despite this, investors are aggressively pouring venture capital funding into companies hoping to bring the technology to the mainstream. Americans are looking for an alternative platform that won’t censor their posts or harvest their data. The specter of looming government regulations of Big Tech may be the final push Americans need to ditch Big Tech.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in D.C. at the intersection of politics and culture.
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