Stay niche

Originally posted at Satellite

The quality of a social network goes down as it grows in size to represent the larger public. This happens merely as a result of the network now representing the “median” of the human condition. The median is of average quality. It represents the unorthodox, boring and conventional.

In contrast, progress happens in outliers. Humanity could not have been progressing towards betterment without the at-that-point-in-time fringe-heterodox thinking normally associated with creativity.

This explains why social media was interesting in its beginning years, but have gotten increasingly constrictive (due to censorship) and of average quality in the current times.

The core problem here is the monolithic nature of these social networks, not their size per se. The solution is decentralization, 1 making it impossible for there to be a large monolithic network thus discouraging any form of universal group-think, for there will be no such universal group.

It is time we humans (i.e., each of us individuals) let go of the idea of “humanity” (i.e., as a “group”); decentralized social networks today have a fantastic opportunity to play their technological role in it.

See also

Footnotes
1.

Until we get there federation might be an acceptable compromise, as the UK House of Lords recommended in its report

Social media services offer citizens unparalleled opportunities to share their opinions with others. However, this market is dominated by a small number of very powerful companies. Rather than allowing these platforms to monopolise the digital public square, there should be a range of interlinked services between which users can freely choose and move. The Digital Markets Unit should make structural interventions to increase competition, including mandating interoperability.

It is worth keeping in mind, however, that when it comes to Mastodon (federated alternative to Twitter) - federation blocklists adopted by instance admins – and enforced unilaterally on their users – beats the spirit of it all, because many popular instances that adopt IdPol-fested policies end up clustering, and blocking other (non-IdPol adopting) instances en masse. See jointhefedi.com for a list of servers. The problem here is that moderation and censorship is still done by centralized parties (ie. instance admins) rather than voluntarily by the individual people themselves. Any centralized and unilateral enforcing of speech online is likely to become corrupt no matter the intention.

2.

More on moderation here,

Online communities that are totally unmoderated can often turn into places that the majority of web users will not want to visit, and it is not always possible to have a totally free online platform without some users feeling marginalized or targeted.

This prompts some incredibly difficult ethical questions. Some could argue that should content on a particular social media site become offensive or derogatory to an individual or group of people, they of course have the option not to participate or create their own inclusive online community.

Others would lobby for the removal of more problematic online communities and censorship of controversial individuals completely, arguing that they pose a risk of causing harm, and looking to platform owners to remove associated accounts and content on users’ behalf—in other words, to engage in active censorship. This can in turn lead to over-zealous moderation within online communities.

Through blockchain, there could be a better solution—a distributed and community-led moderation process which relies not on censorship from a centralized custodian wielding absolute power, but careful moderation via a democratic process empowered by each and every user through decentralized technology. In this way, the entire social media ecosystem could decide the direction of their community and empower good actors to participate.

In theory, such decentralized social media platforms could place power back into the hands of the users, by allowing them to set the direction and rules of their own online communities, and decide what kind of content they publish and read according to community-chosen preferences, rather than that approved by centralized authorities.

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  • Sridhar Ratnakumar
  • Pros and Cons
    After the wide popularity of the Internet, it is not difficult to get in contact with people outside of one's niche. Thus one can unwittingly get involved with what one may consider as ‘the worst’ of the human condition more easily than before. In the physical environment, if someone for example doesn’t like a particular neighbourhood or city, they can simply move to another geographical area*; this is not strictly possible when publicly using a popular social media platform.