Censorship Resistance in Depth
Censorship is having your content removed or actions stopped. Resistance to censorship is the ability to circumvent attempts to take down or stop the desired action. Most technologies exist to solve a problem. If the problem didn’t exist, then the technology would simply die, and be lost to history. The reason why we have censorship resistant technologies such as the TOR Browser, uTorrent, or Bitcoin, is because they solve a problem that people experience. People can get censored for any number of reasons ranging from political, legal, or simply because a moderator wants to. None more problematic than the last in my opinion.
Censorship actually requires significant effort on the part of the censor to pull off. An entity who censors must actively filter the information in order to stop the spread. Information is like a virus, after it gets out, it is difficult to stop the spread. We know this as going viral. The globe is experiencing eerie parallels between the spread of information and the spread of an actual disease. It is ominous to consider that some organizations are taking an infectious disease like approach to stopping the spread of certain ideas.
New Algorithm for YouTube
Google just announced the rollout of a new algorithm that changes the recommendations and ranking of crypto related videos. Bitcoin YouTuber Carl Runefelt notes a considerable drop in traffic after the announcement of the new algorithm. It appears that his views have dropped as much as 90%, with his videos no longer being actively recommended, even to his subscribers. The official reasons are reported to be thwarting cryptocurrency related scams. However, I refuse to believe that Google lacks the ability to differentiate between reputable Bitcoin YouTube channels, and crypto scams. This makes Google guilty for either being lazy, or placing a censorship blanket on crypto related content.
The timing of this rollout is too coincidental to ignore. As bitcoin cuts its inflation rate in half within the next 4 days, world governments are inflating the supply of their currency. People are beginning to pay attention to their financial situations. With this newfound curiosity brought on by the current economic crisis, google trends sees a spike in people’s interest in money. Like the halvening, and peer to peer money systems the spread of financial literacy is inevitable.
How Does Crypto Resist Censorship?
Cryptocurrency is able to avoid censorship by making use of several features of cryptography and network technologies. Cryptocurrencies exist on blockchain platforms which are a unique software born just 11 years ago alongside the invention of bitcoin. Bitcoin was able to take advantage of peer to peer networking from technologies like uTorrent, and Napster. Combine this with NSA level cryptography that has existed since 1985. The final piece was the ability for any number of individuals to join and participate in the network without knowing or trusting one another. This is the shared ledger aspect. Every participant keeps a copy of every transaction on their computer. These three aspects are what make technologies such as bitcoin resistant to censorship. In order to stop a bitcoin transaction, (which can be used to transport information as well as money) one would need to shut down every bitcoin node in the world simultaneously.
Censorship Resistant Social Media
If bitcoin is like the email of the internet, then we have yet to see a Facebook or Google of cryptocurrency emerge from this new technology. However, we do have some sites that could be analogous to MySpace or Netscape. Steemit is a social media blogging site based on blockchain technology. Steemit is resistant to censorship, allowing its user base to determine which content should be ranked, and elevated, much like reddit. Users can earn cryptocurrency for producing quality content that people enjoy.
Ethereum is much like NetScape. The ethereum development community is creating and pioneering much of the technology and features that future platforms will need in order to propel their idea into mass adoption. Ethereum is like a decentralized supercomputer, allowing people to deploy any application they want on this shared computer. Ethereum doesn’t require that your app pass some set of rules; just pay the fee, and deploy your ideas. Although ethereum is an impressive innovation, it is clunky, and not quite ready for mass adoption.
The Inevitable is Coming
As the grip of censorship tightens on individuals and companies who are producing content that people want to see, people will naturally find alternatives. If there are no alternatives, someone will build it. YouTube largely has no real competitor in the video sharing and hosting space. Google collectively has a 28% market share in video hosting, with the nearest competitor coming in at 4%. Perhaps the earliest instance of censorship on YouTube dates back to 2006, with the linked article accurately declaring censorship a slippery slope.
As the world embarks on this journey through a variety of crises, it appears that we’re also sliding quickly down that slippery slope. Information and ideas behave the same way as viruses do. The escape of COVID-19 from China was inevitable in the interconnected world we live in. You cannot stop the spread of information. Crypto censorship will only slow the inevitable.
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come” – Victor Hugo