The Pros And Cons Of Decentralized Social Networks

The Pros And Cons Of Decentralized Social Networks

Blockchain 101
April 5, 2023 by Diana Ambolis
The growing use of social media platforms has altered the way we connect; nevertheless, many individuals believe that these changes are not necessarily for the better. During the COVID-19 epidemic, for instance, the lack of content management across social media platforms permitted the spread of misinformation. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention,
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The growing use of social media platforms has altered the way we connect; nevertheless, many individuals believe that these changes are not necessarily for the better. During the COVID-19 epidemic, for instance, the lack of content management across social media platforms permitted the spread of misinformation. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, misinformation regarding COVID-19 may influence conversations about the virus among family members, friends, and acquaintances (CDC).

Even before COVID-19, many users were dissatisfied with how significant social media platforms handled misinformation, censorship, privacy, political neutrality, and bad behaviour. This discontent existed before the summit took place. Due to the concerns mentioned in the preceding statement, decentralized social networks, also known as federated networks, are gaining popularity.

What is the definition of “decentralised social networks”?

Instead of functioning on a centralized server owned and administered by a single corporation, decentralized social networks employ independently managed servers. Decentralized social networks, such as Mastodon, are instances of such networks. It functions pretty similarly to Twitter and is supported by open-source software. Another example is the cryptocurrency Steem, which works on a social blockchain. Blockchain technology allows data entries to be stored on servers worldwide. Because the data can be viewed in near real-time by anybody connected to a network, it contributes to the development of transparency.

In decentralized social networks, users have a more significant say over their personal experiences. Individuals may create their social network and choose how it will operate and what its members can say. Instead of having content monitored by a corporation, a federated social network developer may determine what is and is not permitted on the platform and define the site’s good behaviour rules.

The Federated Internet

The fediverse is the collective term for the decentralized social networks that comprise the diverse. The fediverse is a network of servers used for social networking, blogging, and online publication, among other things. An independently hosted federated network is capable of connecting with other networks that are part of the diverse.

This is one of the significant differences between decentralized social networks and established social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Twitter users, for instance, may only send and receive messages from other users. Since there is no cross-platform compatibility between Twitter and Facebook, Twitter users cannot send messages to Facebook accounts. On the other hand, Federated networks allow users to engage across several platforms.

Email is an excellent example of how federated social networks operate. Every organization has its system for managing the email of its users. Consider Google and Yahoo! as online search engines. Google does not place any restrictions on Yahoo’s users. Despite this, Google users may send and receive emails with Yahoo users, as well as the other way around. Federated networks function similarly.

Examining the Pros and Cons of Decentralized Networks

Social media facilitates connectivity, the building of communities, and the sharing of information. Individuals may use social media to effect social and political change, raise awareness about important issues, generate funds for those in need, and promote their businesses. On the other hand, the wrong side of social media includes the potential for cyberbullying, political misinformation, and even unlawful behaviour. Because decentralized social networks are often unmoderated, both the positive and negative outcomes become more severe.

User Control, Resistance to Censorship, and the Defense of Free Speech

Corporate businesses dominate the largest social media platforms, and a small number of persons inside these organizations determine the ground rules for user participation. This has resulted in user concerns over censorship and free speech. In the preceding year, Facebook imposed significant limitations on various users, including Louis Farrakhan and Alex Jones. The purpose of these bans was to convey a message to its users. Protecting social media users from risky online behaviour is beneficial by restricting violent, hateful, and harmful material; nevertheless, others contend that such limits contradict the ideals of free speech.

On a decentralized social network, users have more access to their accounts. In contrast to centralized social networking platforms, federated networks foster autonomy by eliminating the necessity for a central authority. Among the positives include resistance to censorship, ownership of one’s data, and increased control over user-generated content. In other words, people will not accept censorship and will not relinquish the right to have the last say over whatever content they produce. No one else, not the site administrator or a large organization, will be allowed to modify the content users have created. No one can also erase the content generated by other users.

In a federated network, no group may compel the compliance of the other groups. Individuals may ban specific organizations, but this does not prevent them from communicating with other network users. On Mastodon, for instance, anybody may manage their own social media site without the requirement for a central authority, meaning they (and other users) are free to post anything they want without fearing their information being erased. This technology makes it easy for hate groups to create their social media sites; this is one of the system’s flaws.

Personal Information, Privacy, and Security

In Europe, a rule known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was created in response to user concerns over their capacity to exercise control over their data. According to the new legislation, users are “data controllers.” Data processors are a common term for organizations that deal with social media. The GDPR stipulates that users are the “data controllers” of their information. Companies are compelled by law to provide customers greater control over their personal information, at least for European users. Companies that do not comply with GDPR legislation may risk penalties.

Decentralized social networks have been suggested as another answer to the issues of data privacy and security. Users may create accounts on federated social networks without being compelled to link their accounts to identifiers from the real world, such as email addresses or phone numbers. In addition, instead of relying on a single organization to protect user information, these networks often use public-key cryptography to defend user accounts.

This causes a variety of barriers, even though it may yield some data security-related advantages. For instance, user data and connections may be lost if a user-funded bootstrapped federated social network goes down owing to a lack of financial resources. Because federated networks do not retain personal data on servers, there are no straightforward means for users in this position to reconnect with other network users. These platforms do not always encrypt the personal information of their users, which means administrators may be able to access their private talks.

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In terms of economic neutrality

Many individuals who resort to decentralized social networks choose economic neutrality because they want to be liberated from intrusive advertising and damage to their privacy. Federated networks seek to retain their financial viability using novel monetization methods. To maintain the operation of their firm, they often use a kind of digital currency such as Bitcoin. Steem is a cryptocurrency that compensates users for creating or curating engaging content. This gives content suppliers an incentive to focus more on the quality of their material. Investors who believe that Steem’s value will improve over time and become profitable at some point give the platform the capital it needs to function.