Facebook, Twitter and Co. are centralised platforms that are owned by private corporations and that control the respective networks unilaterally. An international project financed by EU-H2020 under the project leadership of Radu Prodan (University of Klagenfurt) aims to create a decentralised social media ecosystem using blockchain technology.
Today, social media platforms represent key technologies connecting people in global networks. They have the potential to forge new patterns of communication and to bring about substantial changes in relation to mobilisation, business practices, the process of learning, and the acquisition of knowledge. The companies in the market at present therefore bear considerable societal responsibility, which they are falling short of in many respects, including trust and privacy concerns to name a few. Radu Prodan (Department of Information Technology) offers further insights: “The contents disseminated through social media have the potential to change our world. In view of this, the guidelines governing the creation and propagation of contents and the subsequent dissemination to the users appear all the more questionable. Furthermore, data protection breaches weigh heavily time and again.”
“In order to tackle these problems, we require innovative solutions, both at the level of the user and at the level of the social networks. We need more trustworthy networks under decentralised control and ownership”, Radu Prodan explains.
The project, which bears the title “smART socIal media eCOsystem in a blockchaiN Federated environment (ARTICONF)” is devoted to researching and developing a series of trustworthy, resilient and globally sustainable socialnetwork platforms . Prodan goes on: “The large corporations promised us privacy, robustness and autonomy, but so far they have failed to deliver on these promises”.
Essentially, ARTICONF aims to create a decentralised and federated social media ecosystem, supported by an underlying blockchain technology seamlessly coupled with optimized trust-based measures in an anonymised environment, which simplifies traceability to identify bad actors and eliminates malicious contents such as fake news. Moreover, its novel socio-cognitive and smart matching practices integrate relevant users with common interests into an orchestrated networked community world without deanonymizing them. Supposedly, such a design would bring a range of social media actors (individuals, startups, SMEs) under one systemic umbrella and allow them to be a part of incentivized collaborative decision-making and sharing economy. In principle, ARTICONF presents a new perspective in the current age when data breaches and undemocratic practices are a regular phenomenon at the hands of centralised intermediaries, by creating an open and transparent ecosystem, where control lies in the hands of each anonymous user with provisions for individual or collaborative monetized enhancement.
The three-year project, endowed with a budget of approx. 4.2 million Euros, brings together a total of eight participating institutions from Austria, the Netherlands, Great Britain, FYRO Macedonia, Portugal, Spain, and Norway. Initial results are expected in 2020.