Social media is a multi-faceted product of the digital era that has had a significant impact on the way in which we communicate and connect. It has created global communities of people whereby the need for geographical proximity has been obliterated. Although social media operates under the guise of being ‘free’, it’s become clear that while social media networks may not require any monetary contribution, we pay for it through the exploitation of our privacy.
With the hype surrounding the benefits social media offers settling, it’s become apparent that social media networks function as multi-billion dollar companies that sell our data to the highest bidder. The developments of data sharing has started a real conversation about the ways in which social media networks have begun to view their users as commodities, able to be bought and sold to advertising execs. Facebook is often in the middle of this on-going debate, partly because its founder Mark Zuckerberg has become the figure-head of ‘data theft’ and partly because Facebook continues to dominate the market, undercutting their competition by purchasing them (see, Instagram, WhatsApp).
Anyone active on social media would no doubt notice the rise in advertisements that proliferate our feeds. These ads have become so targeted and personalized that it’s lead some to accuse Zuckerberg of storing messages and spying on users. There is no doubt that social networks sell insights into your behaviours, preferences, connections, location and content . Whether or not they are in their rights to do this is up for debate. Either way, it’s a reality all of us are living through.
The prospect of Blockchain technology reforming social media networks is a real one. The problem that lies within social networks is that the control of data is centralized to the platform owner. This makes users powerless over the control of their data and privacy. Blockchain’s decentralized and distributed ledger and its ability to create smart contracts between users and networks can reform the social media industry. By eradicating the central server there will seize to exist a single entity to control data and content. Instead a decentralized approach would ensure a greater level of control over content and a assurance that data would not be able to be sold off for analytics and advertising.
For countries struggling under laws that censor internet access, a lot of which prohibits social media platforms, Blockchain presents an opportunity. Blockchain’sdecentralised content offers relief from these restrictions, as no entity would be able to block content as Governments currently have the power to do. More generally, Blockchain technology presents the opportunity for messengers exchanged of social media platforms to be completely free of censorship and surveillance.
The implementation of Blockchain technology could also mean greater content authenticity and the end to ‘fake news’ on our news feed. Targeted false content, masked as news stories plagued the 2016 American election and is still a huge concern. Instead of having to refute facts that are false via a third-party such as a news publication or face-checker, Blockchain technology automatically verifies the authenticity of content. As Blockchain is incorruptible, it would be impossible for its integrity to be compromised.
Social Media platforms in a Blockchain-centric world could function as viable crowd-funding platforms that businesses and entrepreneurs use to raise revenue. Although social media platforms can already be used for this, a social network that was decentralized and secure would mean that potential investors and businesses alike would be able to create ICO’s and STO’s with ease.
With the growing distrust between social media networks and their users, people are rightly questioning the future of social networks. With a new technologies continue to emerge, Blockchain presents the opportunity to have a transformative effect on the way in which social media networks operate, do business and connect people. With the promise of more security and integrity and less censorship and middlemen, Blockchain is sure to have a disruptive effect on social media.