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Are you a LatAm based entrepreneur with a presence on the blockchain and would like to learn about how to deal with undesirable content?
Most consumer Internet businesses, including Web3 businesses, are, at their core, publishing businesses. Some publishing businesses commission, post, and host content which they have created themselves. However, most Internet businesses, adopt content originating from third parties such as marketplace listings, social media posts and videos, or blockchain transaction data, and republish it under their own domains under license.
One issue with which all such platforms will have to contend is “content moderation,” or, the need to remove content as a result of user, management, advertiser, or government demands.
The main difference between a Web 2 business and blockchain-based applications is that most internet businesses don’t require agreement on permanent, uncensorable, and immutable global state, whereas blockchains do.
Decentralized technologies, like Bitcoin, are designed to render censorship or deletion virtually impossible. How then, do you address the need for censorship and deletion on the one hand while integrating blockchain technology on the other? The answer will depend in large part on what you instruct your developers to design, and finding the right balance between a thriving business and complying with the legal systems where you operate is key.
Most of the time, blockchains are not used to host and serve an entire DeFi or Web 3 application. More often, they are linked to hosted user interfaces and third party datastores, whether something centralized like an S3 bucket on Amazon, or whether decentralized like a content-addressable system such as Bittorrent or IPFS.
YouTube competitor LBRY, for example, offered an uncensorable blockchain which acted as a registry containing pointers to digital IDs and content, and a website, LBRY.com, which hosted and displayed content linked to those IDs. If a user chose to violate LBRY.com’s terms of service, the blockchain ID or URLs could be deindexed from the LBRY.com site, rendering them inaccessible to anyone who either didn’t know where to look on the chain or wasn’t willing to run a node themselves or reimplement the LBRY.com application on their own – which practically nobody was. Other early storage systems like Sia bifurcated their protocols in two, splitting into a paid service (Sia Pro) and an unregulated, free service (Sia Sky) utilizing separate domains.
The “decentralized” solutions we’ve seen to date tend to use blockchains to ensure only that text, links, and identity are uncensorable, with heavy penalties for putting plaintext on the chain. As a result, identity in the Web3 space tends to be delegated to the chain, with a variety of alternative approaches being available for texts and links. Video content and links are typically hosted in the cloud, not on the chain, meaning that users who don’t want to see objectionable content on the chain should be able to deindex it either via block lists or blacklists.
Developers and entrepreneurs looking to address content moderation in a blockchain-enabled applications should keep the following considerations in mind:
- Legal compliance to address unlawful/undesirable content starts with application design. You only get the chance to hash a genesis block once, and any changes you to the protocol might require a hard fork at a later date.
- Users will expect and demand the ability to control their own experiences on the Internet.
- Because blockchains scale poorly, as a general rule app developers should have the blockchain handle the bare minimum content possible, ideally limiting themselves to IDs, “money” (i.e. the native cryptocurrency) and any smart contract transaction logic required to effectively use “money.”
- Content blobs should for the most part be pushed out to the cloud – whether to third-party servers or be self-hosted by posters. User interfaces should have the ability to deindex user IDs which violate their terms of service, or the law.
- Site admins for a website which operates in tandem with the blockchain will need tools to take down unlawful content and pull subscriber records in response to law enforcement queries like any other Web2 application.
- User Interfaces (UI) are regulated just like any other website and will need to be managed in a conventional way.
If you are a LatAm based entrepreneur and would like to learn how to manage content on the web and/or your blockchain application, we can help!