Technology

Can Blockchain Solve Social Media’s Problems?

If social media networks were to use blockchain technology, blockchain would likely see its widest everyday application yet. Even those who live less digitised lives use social media platforms frequently.

Blockchain has the potential to restore social media user privacy, handing back control of personal data to the individual. It could also answer other issues that have become apparent as social networks and their use have grown.

The decentralised nature of blockchain, with data stored across multiple nodes instead of in huge data silos, is combined with its ability to hold tamperproof records only accessible by authorised stakeholders.

If social media user’s data is stored on a blockchain network, it could prevent it from being sold to, or used by, advertisers and other data-hungry companies without permission.

Blockchain’s immutable records could also verify social media users and add trust, limiting the reach of fake accounts and bots, and aiding the battle against fake news.

Blockchain-based social media platforms are emerging

A number of blockchain startups are looking to answer social media’s problems and present alternative networks to social users.

Steemit is a blockchain-based social platform where content creators and those commenting on, or sharing content can earn STEEM token for their efforts. By May 2018, Steemit reportedly had 60,000 unique accounts and over 250,000 daily visits.

Though the company was faced with laying off staff and a restructure as cryptocurrency values fell at the end of 2018, it is still an example of a  successful blockchain and cryptocurrency using application. According to CoinMarketCap, the STEEM token has a current market capitalization of $131 million.

Emerging in early 2018, Sapien raised $20 million in its token sale and currently has over 6,000 active users. It aims to restore data ownership to individuals, reward users for activities, and it allows SPN token holders to “upvote” or “downvote” posts.

Sapien also has a reputation system, part of its Proof-of-Value consensus protocol, where contributors earn their credibility. In this way and combined with machine learning and blockchain-based user identification, Sapien hopes to combat the issue of fake news that is faced by today’s mainstream platforms.

Sapien users are also required to stake their SPN tokens to use the platform and, bad actors risk losing their SPN in Sapien’s “something-at-stake” design. There is currently $329,555 worth of SPN token in circulation.

Another blockchain-based social media network, SoMee, is also fighting data privacy and fake news using blockchain technology. Its platform is also a social dashboard that integrates conventional networks, and it has a partnership with Steemit where users can post to both platforms seamlessly. SoMee’s coin, ONG, has a current market capitalization of $643,432.

Prevalent networks are investigating blockchain technology

Popular messaging application Kik, which had nearly 10 million active users by the end of 2018, launched a blockchain-based token, KIN, raising over $120 million in funding in 2017. KIN was initially designed for micropayments on the platform.

The Kin Foundation launched its marketplace application, Kinit, in July 2018. KIN can be earned by users participating in surveys, using the application, and can be sent between content creators and consumers.

Though the Kik platform is not blockchain-based, the company has a focus on privacy and is developing KIN as a rewards mechanism. Such rewards systems can change the current social advertising model, which benefits corporations, to one that benefits social media users.

And, even Facebook has blockchain plans, though exactly what they are is as yet unclear. It appears to be focusing on developing in-application blockchain payments and a cryptocurrency with its team of 50 blockchain experts.

The final word

So, blockchain could improve social media by restoring data privacy, enhancing the quality of content, and preventing fake news.  It opens new ways to eliminate unsavoury and harmful content.

Though blockchain-based social networks without central governance will need to properly answer the question of how this type of content and any bad actors are prevented, managed, or removed.

Blockchain and its native cryptocurrencies could also add functionality to social media, like payments integration, as well as ways for users to earn rewards.

New social media networks are in their infancy, like blockchain technology itself. They have a tall order to compete with existing social networks. But like companies across every other sector, existing platforms too, are looking at how blockchain can improve their services.

Melanie Kramer

Melanie Kramer is a freelance technology, blockchain, and cryptocurrency, writer and reporter based between France and Canada. Melanie has studied and retains an avid interest in, global politics, business, and economics.

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