Friday, November 02, 2018

Gab apparently will head for blockchain rebirth; more concerns about personal branding online

The biggest news on the private censorship front may be that Gab is reported to be considering going ti blockchain to become “indestructible”, Marvel movie style. Michael del Castillo reports for Forbes Oct. 31, here.
It’s true that the site is popular with right-wing extremists, and that is not necessarily intended.  But the way US First Amendment law is set up relative to the rest of the free world, and the fact that big tech has to be acceptable around the world and with a politically moderate customer base, means that any site that doesn’t censor legal hate speech will wind up as such a haven. 

The article gives some biography of Andrew Torba, who certainly looks charismatic enough.
The Winklevii (the Winklevoss twins from the days of the founding of Facebook) have also been supporting blockchain for absolutist free speech.

And the free speech gurus are on to something when they maintain that President Trump’s vitriolic statements, rather than sites that allow legal and constitutionally protected “hate speech”, are what is driving mentally unstable people toward violence – that seems true with the alt Right;  with radical Islam, it was angry statements from overseas.  But you can also have a discussion about wealth inequality and the hollowing of the middle class, as well as historical animus against certain peoples.  And you can talk about tribalism in a world that demands individually tailored cognition of events (“personal responsibility”).  

Blockchain may be a way to keep one’s content from normal takedowns but it has its own risks.

There is a detailed story by Gideon Lewis-Kraus from June 19, 2018 on Wired (paywall) about Kathleen McCarthy and Andrew Breitman, going back to 2010.  The story shows how the intermediate digital currency tokens can be used to favor or perhaps eliminate participants in their own local part of the chain. There can also be SEC issues with the underlying value of the enterprise.  (It’s not the same risk as a ponzi.) 

But it also strikes me that right now, blockchain doesn’t seem to promise a digital identity or trademark the way the conventional web does.  Maybe that will change.

Back in 2013, the Guardian had an article by Dan Gillmor that proposed that everyone should register at least one personal domain.

That idea could become controversial, since one way to slow down the spread of fake info on the Web is to regulate who can get on it, rather than the content itself.  That sounds like a Milo-Dangerous idea indeed. I mentioned this today on my COPA blog, as I looked at whether the 2007 opinion really extends the First Amendment to freedom from gatekeepers (which we did not have until the late 1990s). It probably does not (although free speech enthusiastic, including LGBTQ, may well be much better off with a conservative SCOTUS now than they had thought). It’s possible to imagine (even at an international level) requiring future registrants to represent “legitimate” businesses that sell (in a transactional manner) to the public, or that do “legitimate” fundraising, to be monitored by some sort of a-political body.  But we could be headed toward an Internet that is much more like China’s  -- even where people are scored as to their community engagement before they are heard. A lot of activists on the collectivist extremes want this Marxist reality to come back.

Update: Nov. 5 

Gab is apparently back up this morning.  The Washington Post has a major editorial Monday Nov. 5 to which I linked today on the "Bill on Major Issues" blog. 

Update: Jan. 1, 2019

Epik explains why it registered Gab. The Verge has a summary story by Adi Robertson of Gab's "return". 

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