In the past 15 years, social media has gained tremendous importance. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have reached staggering heights as a company. Social media has its advantages like global connectivity and low barrier to entry. It also gives people a platform to express themselves.. However, the sector has taken a dark turn in recent years, provoking attacks and disseminating false information, while raising issues of censorship. Eric Yang, founder and CEO of Together, a nonprofit decentralized social media startup, sees three main problems in today’s landscape.
The first of the three issues Yang identified concerns governance, which is essentially the person or organization responsible for overseeing and managing a given platform. “Many of these companies are set up as for-profit institutions that are held in trust towards their investors,” said Yang Cointelegraph in an interview.
Essentially, profits drive such social media organizations as their actions hit investor pockets, Yang said. These giants often lure users in with what appears to be a free platform to interact with while profitably selling those users’ information and data along with promotional tactics and other measures.. These social media giants look at themselves, not users, and keep their digital platforms in view of such profitable tactics while playing with customers’ psychological weaknesses, Yang noted.
Centralization also plays a role. “It’s not inherently sustainable,” said Yang. Nowadays, Social media companies have considerable power. A company can essentially control the perceived reality of a large part of the world’s population, censor content while manipulating the content that people see, let alone deciding how to handle customer data.believes Yang.
Yang summarized the top three problems he sees on social media: “The former is really a business model problem and then affects the latter. This is harmful user experience design that shapes the type of digital culture we see.” He added, “The third would be to centralize technology and information.”
Over the years, many startups have emerged with alternative decentralized social media options such as the alternative YouTube DTube. Together, Yang’s nonprofit is an example. The Together Foundation monitors the social media platform. However, Together is not based on blockchain, but achieves decentralization through a distributed ledger solution called Holochain.
In recent years, other approaches have also emerged aimed at repairing the current landscape, rather than moving people to other platforms.. A solution from Discussions.app, for example, uses Telos to log the information from users of current social media platforms via blockchain.
An irreparable landscape?
CT: Apparently it’s not just about the platforms, it’s also about people’s behavior on social media. People are not nice sometimes. How does this affect everything?
EY: We believe that human behavior is just a by-product of the environment we are in. Of course there will always be a spectrum. Some people will be nice and some won’t, but there are things you can do to shift that culture towards the more positive end of the spectrum and that’s why we’ve really focused on laying the foundations of many of the user experiences we’re used to are redesigning social networks.
For example, in the current paradigm, if you have algorithms that only reinforce what you already believe in and that create hyper-attachment to opinions, it creates more division. If you have these algorithms that also show him things that are very provocative because that drives engagement, he will feel more prompted.. Or, having a lot of these public rating metrics creates a more competitive and superficial atmosphere than one created by authenticity and real self-expression.
I firmly believe that more confident and people-centered design patterns go a long way towards encouraging people to have more respect, empathy and more meaningful discussions on the platform.
CT: What can social media fix about the whole situation?
EY: I think a lot of things can be fixed. I am rather optimistic about the situation. I think of the three things I mentioned earlier about what was broken, like the governance and revenue models, I think it can be fixed. For us, we set it up as a nonprofit to manage the project. This is so that we created this foundation from the start so that we can maintain the integrity of what we want to do in the future and really ensure that all resources are allocated to the mission and not enrich the shareholders or third parties that dilute ours Direction.
Then there is the whole problem of the social and cultural dilemma that we are used to, and I think that can also be fixed by again bringing the right intentions and ethics into the platform design.. After all, I think the problems with censorship, privacy, data ownership and those things that are problems because the technology is centralized can be solved with a distributed approach.
CT: What problems cannot be solved?
EY: I think the subject of moderation is extremely difficult and today there are a lot of centralized companies struggling with it. Hiring employees is a huge hiring process, and these people often suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because they see a lot of the same graphical things over and over again.
Plus, it becomes a pretty intense philosophical discussion: why would an organization that is not representative of the world’s diversity have the power and ability to dictate what, in the case of Facebook, billions of people should do? can and can not see? And why are we as individuals ready to give up our power and even ask for it? Some people are calling for this in Congress, like more regulation, more censorship. The truth is very subjective. Everyone’s perception and perspective is different, and I think that essentially being able to moderate this problem through a centralized context is impossible.
This interview has been edited and shortened for reasons of clarity.