Twitter’s vision of decentralization could also be the far-right’s internet endgame – TechCrunch

This week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Finally Publicly responded The company’s decision to ban President Trump from its platform, writing that Twitter had “faced an extraordinary and volatile situation” and that he “did not feel proud” about the decision. In the same formula, he took the time to invoke a nascent Twitter-sponsored initiative called “Bluesky”, which aims to create an “open decentralized standard” for social media that is just one part of Twitter.

Researchers associated with Bluesky describe TechCrunch as still an initiative in its early stages that could fundamentally shift the power dynamics of the social web.

Blusky is aiming to create a “sustainable” web standard that will ultimately ensure that the responsibility of platforms like Twitter is less centralized in deciding which users and communities have a voice on the Internet. While it can protect speech from marginalized groups, it can also spur modern moderation techniques and efforts to curb online bigotry.

Jack Inc., co-founder and CEO of Twitter Inc., arrives in Washington, DC, US on Wednesday after a break during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. On September 5, 2018. Republicans pressed Dorsey for what he said. Patrons may have “shadow-restrictions” during the hearing. Photographer: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Image

What is bluesky?

Just as there is a lack of a central bank to control bitcoin, a decentralized social network protocol operates without central governance, meaning that Twitter will only control its app built on Bluesky, not other applications on the protocol. Open and independent systems allow applications to view, search, and interact with content throughout the standard. Twitter hopes that the project can go beyond the existing Twitter API offering, enabling developers to build applications with different interfaces or methods of algorithm curation, possibly different moderation for plug-and-play access For a tool such as Twitter is paying in protocols or identity networks.

A widely adopted, decentralized protocol is an opportunity for social networks to “pass the buck” on moderation responsibilities for a broader network, a person involved in the early stages of Bluesky suggests, individual applications on the protocol Allows it to decide which accounts and networks are prevented from accessing its users.

Social platforms such as Parler or Gab can theoretically rebuild their network on BlueSky, benefiting from its stability and the network effects of an open protocol. The researchers involved also clarify that such a system would also provide a meaningful measure against government censorship and protect the discourse of marginalized groups around the world.

Bluesky’s current scope is firmly in the research phase, with those involved telling TechCrunch, which has about 40-50 active members from various factions in the decentralized tech community surveying the software landscape and what the protocol should look like at the end Are proposing together for this. Twitter has told early members that it expects to appoint a project manager in the coming weeks to form an independent team that will begin preparing the protocol itself.

The initial members of Bluesy were invited by Twitter CTO Parag Agarwal early last year. It was later determined that the group should open the conversation to people representing some of the more recognizable decentralized network projects Mastodon And Activitypub Who joined a work group hosted on a secure chat platform Element.

Jay Graeber, founder of decentralized social platform Is happening, Was paid by Twitter to write a technical review of the decentralized social ecosystem that “attempts to help Twitter evaluate current options in the space,” he tells TechCrunch.

“if [Twitter] Wanted to design this thing, they could appoint a group of just a few people to do it, but the only thing that this small group of people can do better than Twitter, and that is not Twitter, ” Golda Velez, another member of the group who works as a senior software engineer at Postmasters and co-founded civ.works, A privacy-focused social Network for civic engagement.

The group has done some back-and-forth with Twitter executives within the scope of the project, eventually forming a Twitter-approved list of goals for the initiative. They define the challenges that the Blusky protocol should also address by addressing what responsibilities are best for application creators building on the standard.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.

Parrot.vc twitter account

Picture: TechCrunch

Who is involved

The pain points in the document, viewed by TechCrunch, reflect some of Twitter’s biggest shortcomings. They include a desire to develop “customizable mechanisms for preventing controversy and how the virus is going viral”, as well as “adaptation mechanisms” for optimization, although the document notes that applications, the overall protocol No, “are ultimately liable for compliance, censorship. “Takedown, etc ..”

“I think the solution to the algorithm problem is not getting rid of the algorithm – because sorting chronological positions is an algorithm – the solution is that it’s an open pluggable system by which you can move to different algorithms And see what suits you or uses your friends’ choices, “says Ivan Henshaw-Plath, another member of the work group. He was one of the early employees of Twitter and his own decentralized social platform Were building what is called Planets.

Their platform is based on the secure Scuttlebut protocol, which allows the user to browse offline in an encrypted fashion. Planetary was in talks with Twitter for a corporate investment, as well as CEO Jack Dorsey’s personal investment, says Hennesh-Plath, but the platform’s competitive nature caused some concern among Twitter lawyers and Planetary Investments Finished receiving. From Future co-founder of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Stone did not respond to interview requests.

After agreeing on the goals, Twitter initially hoped to reach some shared consensus for the wider team, but differing perspectives within the group prompted Twitter to accept members’ individual proposals. Some pushed Twitter to adopt or develop an existing standard, while others pushed for Blusky to quickly pursue standards interrelationships and see what users do naturally.

One of the developers in the group was hoping to bring Bluesky to its standard with Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko who tells TechCrunch that he sees a major shift needed to operate social media platforms globally.

Banning Trump was the right decision, though a bit too late. But at the same time, the specifics of the situation are that it probably shouldn’t be an American company that decides these things, “Rochko tells us.

Like many other members of the group, Roshko has at times been skeptical about the motivation with the Bluesky protocol on Twitter. Shortly after Dorsey’s initial announcement in 2019, Mastodon’s official Twitter account Tweeted criticizing a bite, Writing, “This is not a declaration to reinforce the wheel. It is announcing the creation of a protocol that meets to control Twitter, like Google controls Android.”

Today, Mastodon is arguably one of the most mature decentralized social platforms. Rochco claims that the network of decentralized nodes has more than 2.3 million users in thousands of servers. In early 2017, the platform had its viral moment on Twitter, signaling the influx of “hundreds of thousands” of new users with some curious potential investors, whom Rochaco reprimanded in favor of the charity-based model.

Image Credit: Techcrunch

inherent risk

Not everyone has welcomed the attention that Rochko has given. In 2019, Gab, in favor of right-wing extremists, brought its entire platform to the Mastodon network after integrating the platform’s open source code, bringing together Mastodon’s largest web users and its most undesirable liability.

Rochko quickly destroys the network and convinces application creators to do so by severely restricting their relationships with other nodes on the Mastodon platform. But a central fear of advocates of decentralization was quickly realized, as the first “success story” of the platform type was a home for right-wing extremists.

The apprehension is reverberating in decentralized communities this week as app store owners and networks shut down another right-wing social network, Parler, leading to riots in the Capitol in the US followed by violent content. , Some developers fear that the social network may set up a home on their decentralized standard.

“Fascists are going 100% to use peer-to-peer technologies, they already are and they are going to start using it more … if they move away from mainstream infrastructure or people will actually get them Are surveying closely, they are going to them. ” Inspiration, ”said Emmy Bavensee, a researcher while studying Extremists exist on decentralized networks. “The far-flung may have to have a strong foothold on the peer-to-peer, people who think the far-flung is bad because they have been effectively pushed.”

A central concern is that commoditizing decentralized platforms through efforts like those of Bluesy will provide a more accessible route to keep viewers away from ongoing platforms and keep casual internet users from a fanatics towards radicalization. A less lively route may be provided.

“Peer-to-peer technology is usually not yet intuitive. Some of it is; You can now buy Bitcoin in the Cash app, which, if anything, is evidence that this technology is going to become a lot more mainstream and more intuitive to adopt, “ Bevensee told TechCrunch. “From Parlar in the current era of this mass exodus, they are obviously going to lose a huge amount of viewers who are not dedicated enough to get on IPFS. Scootlebat is a very good technology but it’s intuitive like Twitter Is not. “

While extremists adopting technologies that promote privacy and strong encryption are far from a new phenomenon, encrypted chat apps such as Signal and Telegram have been at the center of such controversies in recent years. Bevensey described the tendency of right-wing extremist networks to adopt decentralized network technology as “extremely psychopathic” for those early developer communities – though she notes that similar technologies could benefit marginalized people around the world.

While those involved with Bluesky’s initial moves see a long road ahead for the development and adoption of the protocol, they also see an evolving landscape with the recent deplatforming of parlors and President Trump that they hope will give other stakeholders Will eventually drive to integrate with the standard.

“At the moment I think there’s going to be a lot of incentive to adopt, and I don’t just mean end users, I mean platforms, because Twitter isn’t the only one that really has thorny moderation problems,” Velez it is said. “I think people understand that this is an important moment.”