According the a recent CoinDesk article, the cryptocurrency twitter war that has been simmering along for some time now is on the verge of erupting into a full scale social media brawl. The premise of the conflict is that as the popularity of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology has exploded over the past 6 months, so has the popularity of advertisements, posts, conversations, and advice being shared across the internet on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Medium, etc.
And to put it mildly, amidst all of this new content being published and shared, not everyone shares the same opinion.
It is the difference of those opinions, and the susceptibility of social media to be used in malicious ways — think manipulating major elections of global superpowers, and scamming bitcoin users into losing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of digital assets — that has everyone so concerned about the diffusion and conflict of information on Twitter.
The most recent disturbance on Twitter that highlights the ongoing conflict has to do with the @bitcoin handle itself. Under its new leadership, the account has been stirring up controversy by departing from it’s relatively unbiased informative posts to attacking the core bitcoin community in favor of other sub-coins that have been created after hard forks in the Bitcoin blockchain. Obviously, this is upsetting to a lot of people; the stability of Bitcoin as an asset, and more generally as the pioneer of the crypto revolution, is very sensitive to cleavages and drama within the Bitcoin community at large. Needless to say, these recent posts haven’t been helping.
Zooming out now, the main problem at stake here is how to manage content on social media in a way that protects consumers from the hazards of false information, spammy bots, and the especially lethal combination of the two.
This isn’t a discussion that’s new. As I mentioned above, the 2016 election in the United States served to highlight the insidious threatening side effects of the global expansion of social media. These side effects were not immediately apparent at the advent of the social media revolution; some have argued that they could have been predicted, and ignoring them up until now was naive and short-sighted. But nevertheless, the past is past, and we have to move forward now with the knowledge and experience we’ve gained to try to create solutions for a better future of social media & instant digital communication.
One solution that has been proposed and implemented by some social media sites (mostly Facebook) has been outright censorship and the banning of certain types of information. Facebook seems to be taking the lessons learned in 2016 very seriously by making attempts to curb the effects of the spread of false or misleading information. For example, in response to the Bitcoin question, Facebook has completely banned all advertising on their site related to cryptocurrencies and ICOs.
On the back of this precedent, a lot of people are calling on Twitter to moderate information about cryptocurrencies being disseminated on their platform, which Twitter has begun to dabble in, although very hesitantly. So far, they have silenced several accounts suspected of being run by bots to actively promote ICO scams or other malicious crypto-based content.
But it hasn’t been a perfect strategy. Twitter’s AI bots have made plenty of mistakes, with some real users complaining about their own accounts being suspended temporarily as a result of the censorship.
All of this drama continues to mount even more questions regarding the use of social media as a tool for digital communication, advertising, community-building, and ideating — the next big one being:
If we are going to censor and monitor content being posted on social media, who gets to decide what is allowed and what is removed? And how do we develop systems to ensure those decisions are enforced in the face of billions of new data points to be considered every second?
Not to mention the even more basic question, “Is censoring social media even a good idea?”
What do you think? Comment below!