Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: Censorship, Decentralized Networks and Moderation  by@golemnetwork

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: Censorship, Decentralized Networks and Moderation

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Golem Network

works at Golem Network

In the first month of 2021, numerous internet infrastructure providers withdrew service from websites associated with or used by the far-right, after discovering many of these sites were used to incite or promote violence. Popular social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, made the decision to take down former US President Donald Trump’s accounts. Parler, a Twitter alternative, was quickly removed from Apple’s and Google’s app stores before also being dropped by its web host, Amazon. 

Recently, Google’s Play Store suspended Element downloads without any warning. Element, formerly known as Riot Chat, is an open-source, federated and encrypted chat app. Open Source and Blockchain communities have adopted this platform for at least four years, facilitating the creation of many online communities supporting the efforts of building the decentralized web. Google Play claimed the reason for deplatforming Element, was due to finding controversial content distributed throughout the app. But if the problem is strictly about content, shouldn’t Whatsapp and Facebook be deplatformed as well?

These moves were met with mixed reactions from people around the world: on the one hand, many individuals felt the move was long overdue, while others were quick to recognize what this meant on a bigger scale: it is either freedom for all, or freedom for none. 

The current landscape has given newfound attention to the concept of deplatforming and led many to wonder what the right solution is. The question we are confronted with in times such as these is, How can we continue to design a network with fewer restrictions than traditional services, but which provides its users with a better model for authority, accountability and creative freedom? 

No one has the perfect answer; however, decentralized networks offer several opportunities.

Building strong communities

Censorship-resistant, decentralized platforms like Golem Network propose a truly open web with no barriers of entry or deplatforming risks. They are built to provide people with opportunities otherwise not possible through traditional networks and web platforms, enabling total ownership over one’s digital presence. We have worked hard to develop and foster a community that encourages and relies on collaboration. We know not all content and users will be well-intentioned, but we want to prioritize free and open access.  

If networks work with their users to ensure and create healthy communities, this can, in turn, make bad actors feel unwelcome within the broader community. While they can continue to build and leverage resources across the network, not being welcomed by the community cuts off the main source of any potential success for said platform or group. 

Protecting free expression

More traditional, centralized platforms have control over the bulk of communication services within the platform. While users are aware of this control and must agree to comply when signing up, many don’t understand the repercussions and what it means for individual rights. Decentralized networks, in contrast, put the power of expression back in the hands of the individual.

As Paul Frazee, co-creator of Beaker Browser and Hypercore team member, recently wrote, “Decentralization trends toward libertarian ideals, but collective rights are as important as individual rights. Shared spaces must have ways to moderate, to decide how and what goes viral, whether somebody can be banned, and even details about how the software is built...”

To this end, it is important to understand that in a community such as the Golem Network, users are able to build and express ideas freely – to an extent. Shared data, such as content posted in public forums or projects built for collaborative purposes, falls under everyone’s collective rights and therefore must be monitored in some way to ensure the best experience for all users. 

At the Golem Network, our community managers are tasked with creating and fostering a positive, collaborative community for all. While users may express their ideas and opinions freely, community managers ensure a respectful tone is maintained by all. In addition, Golem Network’s open-source, decentralized platform allows users to stimulate creativity and collaborate around the globe. 

Remaining transparent & unbiased 

As new technologies are being created – from blockchain to social media, many companies working within these areas are focused on creating environments open and easily accessible to all. However, Vitalik Buterin’s explanation of credible neutrality explores why it is not just enough for a company to be unbiased.

He writes “...everyone participating must be able to see that the mechanism is fair, and everyone participating must be able to see that everyone else is able to see that the mechanism is fair, because everyone participating wants to be sure that everyone else will not abandon the mechanism the next day.” Ensuring a network’s foundation is transparent and publicly meets the needs of all individuals helps to build a “credibly neutral” platform.

The general nature of decentralized networks encourages the welcome sharing of ideas and concepts amongst users, however making sure those ideas and concepts are being used to solve the problems of a community are also part of Buterin’s vision of the guiding principles of success. Golem Network, for example, leverages Ethereum smart contracts for task initiations and is now supporting the migration to GLM, an ERC20 token for payment settlement within the network. Our decentralized, peer-to-peer network gives transparency across all processes within the ecosystem and helps to promote all use cases, working toward solving the problems of our users around the world with the help of the most innovative technology available to-date. 

So where do we go from here?

While we are certainly far from a world where all individuals feel they have complete freedom of expression, decentralized networks offer a glimmer of hope for many. By recognizing areas such as data ownership, transparency collaboration, platforms can work towards unlocking more opportunities for their users.  

Finding the middle ground for moderation will be critical in helping platforms succeed. Paul Frazee explains, “It’s not a problem of too much moderation, but too little.” Moderation is not about limiting users’ freedom of expression. Instead, we need to use moderation to look out for the individual user. In doing so, we will be on our way toward a better internet experience for all.


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