Big Tech has been in the news a lot over the past decade. Initially, the coverage focused on the new possibilities created around communication, information sharing, and the benefits they would bring. New tech networks provided unprecedented tools, providing everything from reuniting families separated by immigration to helping to overthrow authoritarian regimes and restore power to the people.
Then, we heard about the tremendous value the big tech companies are creating, bringing in billions of dollars for founders and workers, in addition to the pension funds they have invested in. We knew that they were a force for good in the world, not least because they didn’t miss an opportunity to tell us this truth.
Sentiments toward big tech changed near the end of 2016, driven by an unexpected outcome in the US presidential election. Big Tech platforms are no longer tools for promoting individuality and self-expression; Soon they became enablers of hate and lies. Seemingly overnight, these companies went from dear to outcast, from bastions of free speech to being weaponized by malicious interests and rogue states to influence elections, and to plant false narratives. Individuals controlling the platforms went from defending freedom to likening them to dictators. Journalists write that Big Tech now has more capital than many governments and more speech control than any media outlet – without any democratic checks and balances or regulations to curb their worst motivations.
These events highlight how much power currently exists within major tech companies, along with the need to reflect on how we define speech in the modern world and how it should be amplified and organized. This, in turn, touches on how the platforms that define modern discourse are governed.
From decentralization to flow
To address this, we must examine how the early internet sparked so much creativity in its early days. At the time, the web was decentralized in its own way, with each website representing its own space, resulting in an extensive network of nodes interconnected together by hyperlinks. Some nodes were larger than others, but none were so large that they distorted the landscape or required specific organization. The Internet can be seen as a vast park, which is added with each additional website.
With the growth of both the network and the number of users, there has been an increasing demand for this network to be organized and more efficient. Google took advantage of this by building an algorithm that searched the web and released results, and in the process, launched a new internet that was identified by the algorithms. The content was recommended and suddenly identified by algorithms via Music (Spotify), News (Facebook and Twitter) and Entertainment (Netflix). The park became a watercourse, and suddenly, we were all affected by the black box algorithms that we knew very little about.
It is this new, gushing paradigm of the Internet that has caused such scathing criticism to be directed at major tech companies. Big tech companies determine what is acceptable to share and what should be promoted often by looking at what is most beneficial to their bottom line. Content controls are described as moderation for those who approve of them and censorship by those who disagree. Loud voices dominate the conversation, often disproportionately favoring the tech workforce and traditional media – a small group with identifiable biases.
Return to the decentralized internet
What is the correct way to manage these huge platforms? The concentration of founders’ power is very limited, and outsourcing California employees and Western media is a bit better. Instead, we must look back at the decentralized internet of the past and see how we can recreate the period in which many elderly people look back with such nostalgia. Many claim that it is impossible to return this genie to the fund, given the enormous economic value particularly derived from centralizing and making digital content more accessible.
Blockchain has enabled decentralized corporate governance, enabling a form of democratic decision-making that is weighted toward the skinned people in the game. Individuals purchase the governance codes in a network, such as the Yearn.finance decentralized finance product group, which provides them with a vote on the governance of this ecosystem while maintaining an independent value and / or providing dividends. Firms can be decentralized in origin like Yearn, or transition to this model over time, like DeFi lender Aave. This model provides returns, aligns strategy with ownership, and eliminates the principal agent problem pervasive in both public and private organizations. Firms can use it to distribute management fees to owners as well as make strategic decisions.
Public discourse on content modification often derives from legal and philosophical notions, with a liberal spray from the First Amendment of America, to build a top-down solution. This assumes that few people know what’s best for millions or even billions of users. But decentralized governance, demonstrated by its burgeoning DeFi industry, may allow a bottom-up solution that puts power in the hands of users. Even Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter Advertise His interest in this approach at the end of 2019.
Decentralized governance can be achieved by providing users with tokens, as described above, which in turn will allow them to vote on principles of moderation. This can even be tuned with the issue at hand – members of minorities may have more weight in issues relating to discrimination or religious groups over freedom of religion. Premium users may have more weight for their voices than normal voices. By trusting the broader issue of moderation for the wider community, users engage in a social contract that will make them more inclined to buy with the principles being adopted. In addition to making moderation more effective, this will likely fix some reputational damage to social media companies, creating a clear distinction between censorship and moderation.
The largest technology platforms have more users than the largest countries in the world, but none have the equivalent of the democratic checks and balances we look for in governance. Identifying complex pain points, such as censorship and moderation, and finding ways to empower users to own these processes, gives them a distinctive in-game appearance and access to creating a flexible policy mechanism to help heal Big Tech’s broken reputation. It’s in the corporate interest, too, as the blow to poor content policies has led to antitrust speculation and calls to dismantle Facebook, for example.
Opinions, ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Lewis Quindi He is a co-founder of Aragon, which is a platform to build and operate DAOs. Lewis started his first open source project at the age of twelve. He entered Bitcoin in 2011, after getting his inspiration for how cryptocurrencies could bring freedom. In 2014, when he was 18 years old, he co-founded the blockchain-based company, Stampery. It holds many recognitions, including Forbes 30 under 30, MIT TR35 and HackFwd’s best European hacker.