Why Trump Was Right in His Battle with Twitter

Allison describes the potential for decentralized blockchain ecosystems to improve social media content moderation practices

On May 28th, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order attempting to change legislation that has historically protected social media companies from litigation. Since 1996, the US Communications Decency Act has stated that people couldn’t sue an “interactive computer service” based on the content posted on their platforms. The law also allowed sites freedom to remove posts they deemed “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

Trump has fired only the most recent salvo in the debate surrounding the relationship between free speech and the tech giants. This past January, in response to widespread criticisms, Facebook had first revealed plans to create a content oversight board. But weighing in on the recent Trump-ignited controversy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online…Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

In a similar conflict regarding the privacy of data, tech giants, Apple and Google flexed their muscles by refusing European governments’ demands for centralised storage of contact-tracing data. While proponents of privacy celebrated, the debate raised interesting questions about the power of American commercial enterprises to make decisions about the usage and storage of European data in response to a global health emergency.

While I strongly support the protection of personal data, I am not sure I want Google and Apple to have the last word regarding the protection of my privacy. I also share Mr. Zuckerberg’s discomfort with the idea of Facebook as the “arbiter of truth,” but I am disturbed by the use of social media platforms to disseminate hate speech and disinformation. And I agree with the President’s concern that, “There is no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction and that includes individual people controlling vast amounts of territory.”

While I may agree with the President’s diagnosis of the problem, I certainly don’t agree with his prescribed solution. But how to improve upon the current system?

The world needs a neutral, global, decentralised, democratic platform for the sharing of data and value, where the members of the network govern its operations and collectively address the thorny challenges of privacy, censorship, free speech, and the many, many other issues that have, and will continue, to arise. But where to find such a system?

The third generation of blockchains, with their creation of on-chain governance to address crucial questions about platform performance offer a compelling alternative. As envisioned by projects such as Cardano (, “Proof of Stake” protocols employ a consensus algorithm to to determine legitimate transactions. Large groups of diverse operators and token holders collectively maintain the system, and, as a happy benefit, avoid the need for the massive amounts of electricity required by the first generation of blockchains (Bitcoin).

Proof of Stake systems devise elaborate game theory mechanisms to encourage diversity of the user base, fight against centralising tendencies, and avoid the concentration of power in the hands of the already wealthy. Cardano envisions a future in which this globally diverse, heterogeneous collection of “ordinary” network users would decide important questions about the platform’s future through a system of voting.

Developers could then build social media platforms (as well as a tremendous number of other types of applications) on top of the Cardano infrastructure, much as Facebook and its brethren rely on the underlying internet protocols to enable their business model. As difficult questions arise regarding the governance of the Cardano technology, the Cardano community itself would vote on proposals and implement changes through the decentralised Proof of Stake governance and continuous improvement system.

I can’t imagine a better method to determine how a technological platform will respond to our current conundrums around privacy, identity, and free speech. Although Cardano and other Proof of Stake systems are still in their infancy, I am excited to watch the future unfold, and to see how blockchain technology will create a vastly better way to govern the powerful social media platforms that rule so many aspects of our daily lives.