While censorship resistance and privacy are not the same thing, they are closely intertwined. When a government or other organization, such as an advertiser, can track everything you do, they can also sanction you for bad behavior.
Instead of working backwards trying to duct-tape the seismic cracks in Web2, it might be time to move forward at full speed, ensuring the same mistakes don’t happen again in Web3. By being active, the envisioned Internet of the future could actually protect our personal information and prevent excessive or punitive censorship before these issues become unmanageable.
Using cryptography to deliver a message
In countries fighting for human rights and civil liberties, the suppression of freedom of speech and outward communication makes it difficult to fight repressive regimes. This is where the encryption and transparency of blockchain technology can come in handy to protect sensitive information. Web3-based email extensions (such as ShelterZoom’s Document GPS) and file sharing services (such as the InterPlanetary File System) can help activists and citizens in hotbeds of human rights work bypass censorship and unwarranted surveillance.
By placing documents on the ledger, the sender can control all aspects of visibility and permissions while having access to a time-stamped log of every action taken on the file. Think of it like DocuSign or Google Docs on steroids.
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In a regime with strict surveillance and censorship practices, it is easy to understand how invaluable these blockchain-based tools are. But such solutions also use blockchain to eliminate crypto-censorship blind spots. It is a common misconception that cryptocurrencies are inherently private when in fact the opposite is true as transactions are stored in a public and transparent distributed ledger. That’s why they can be tracked even more effectively than traditional financial transactions.
This lesson was learned the hard way during the blockade of a truck convoy in Canada that received donations in bitcoin (BTC), which is easy to trace and sanction. According to Michael Gronager, CEO of blockchain data processing company Chainalysis: “Cryptocurrency is much more transparent than traditional finance. […] We’re looking after the funds.”
So, how did the cryptocurrency earn its reputation for being censorship resistant? Part of the answer lies in the decentralized control of the ledger, making it extremely complex and immutable once a transaction is written to the ledger.
One network that offers complete anonymity is Tomy, a developer of Web3-based decentralized solutions and ancillary computing hardware. Led by eight anonymous senior crypto veterans working with 72 developers, Tomi builds TomiNet to enable the free flow of information between journalists, activists, and generally law-abiding people without government or corporate interference. While TomiNet has anonymity features similar to the dark web, the network is managed by the Tomi community through a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) to prevent questionable or harmful activities.
The idea behind DAO governance is simple: keep governments and corporations out, but still offer a mechanism to deal with violence.
The need for decentralization is greater than theoretical
Another notable example of Big Tech’s access control is the controversial right-wing social network Parler, which is being kicked out of cloud-based web hosting services like Amazon Web Services. Cloud technologies are hailed as a really useful technology in the Internet infrastructure. But the problem is that there are several cloud companies that provide almost all the necessary infrastructure, which allows them to act as gatekeepers.
Whether or not you agree with Parler’s ban policy, this event shows how a company is effectively blocked from browsing the internet because the cloud service cannot serve them.
Related: Facebook and Twitter will soon become obsolete thanks to blockchain technology
Decentralized web hosting can be a much needed solution. Companies like Akash and Flux offer a wide range of cloud services needed for the Internet age, but by using decentralization, they take away the ability of the cloud service to control users.
There are more and more examples every day where governments and private individuals have too much power to suppress freedom of speech and communication. Web3 needs to take responsibility, but more forcefully and defiantly than before. Censorship resistance and privacy live in a symbiotic relationship, and neither means anything without the other. The crypto world must keep this in mind if it is to fulfill the lofty promises of the space.
Ariel Shapira is a father, entrepreneur, public speaker and cyclist, and founder and CEO of Social-Wisdom, a consulting agency that works with Israeli startups to help them connect with international markets.
This article is for general informational purposes and is not intended and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of . The author has not received compensation from any of the projects or companies mentioned in this column.