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Power to the People: How Blockchains Can Enable Social Change

The content sharing and communication enabled by tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have empowered world-changing cultural movements including #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring.

Despite these social triumphs, dominant centralized systems sometimes seek to minimize change when it doesn’t serve their interests. This issue underlines the need for decentralized content platforms that allow for the existence of potentially unpopular ideas and communication channels unfettered by the watchful eyes of centralized governments and corporations. 

The New Social Order

Today’s social platforms, run by centralized corporations, have tapped into our most basic human desires for inclusion, connection and attention. People volunteer personal information about themselves in exchange for instant gratification in the form of “likes,” follows and retweets. One problem with this culture of sharing, though, is that it incentivizes people to give up control of their data and privacy. 

Steemit is a blockchain-based social platform that has eliminated the need for advertisers and the collection of user data. Members can earn tokens by posting original stories and curating content created by others. The value of Steem tokens is based on a novel idea called “Proof of Brain.” The Steem blue paper outlines how Proof of Brain differs from proof of work, the consensus mechanism used to validate transactions on the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains. Instead of distributing tokens only to miners, the Steem network distributes tokens to members who are actively adding value to the community (i.e., content creators and curators). 

The idealistic vision of Steemit is a decentralized content-sharing platform wherein creators of diverse perspectives find their respective audiences. The Steem white paper envisions a conglomeration of sub-communities comprised of poets, sports enthusiasts and political junkies all thriving within the greater Steem network.

The success of this vision hinges on diverse content being rewarded by community members. If members are not diverse, the content earning “upvotes” — the Steem equivalent to likes — may become homogenous or biased. There is also a risk of users colluding to promote their own content and that of their friends. In order to curb such abuse, Steemit limits the number of votes allocated to each user per day. Additionally, the value of Steem tokens depends on overall user trust in the system, so all members are incentivized to behave ethically so as not to devalue their own holdings. 

Rise in Decentralized Communication

A big development in the crypto community is, of course, Telegram’s much-discussed initial coin offering (ICO), which is predicted to be the largest in history, with the organization seeking to raise $1.2 billion.

Telegram is an encrypted messaging app that has superseded Slack among many crypto enthusiasts as the preferred communications forum. According to a leaked 23-page white paper, Telegram’s main aim is to bring crypto payments to the masses, but the organization also intends to decentralize online communication via its proposed Telegram Open Network (TON). Users on this network will be able to share files and browse anonymously with its new crypto token, called “grams.” 

The issue of scale has plagued blockchain technology since its inception. In the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains, every transaction must be validated by a percentage of nodes before it can be added as a permanent hash on the ledger. The Bitcoin blockchain can handle a maximum of 7 transactions per second while Ethereum handles about 15 — a snail’s pace compared to the thousands of transactions per second processed by credit cards. TON aims to achieve the speed necessary for mainstream adoption of crypto payments.

Unlike centralized tech giants, Telegram believes that people’s privacy should be protected. The Telegram FAQ page states that the company prioritizes protecting the content of private conversations as well as personal data from marketers and advertisers. By introducing high-speed crypto payments to its already popular chat application, Telegram has a chance to make a real impact on the fight for consumer data protection and privacy on a large scale.

EEA Launches 'Token Taxonomy Initiative'

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance has announced a "Token Taxonomy Initiative" to develop universal definitions for tokens to encourage their interchangeability across blockchain platforms. Members of the initiative include Microsoft, R3, ConsenSys, IBM, EY, Accenture and Intel.

Gemini Adds Support for SegWit

Source: Gemini

Gemini Trust, a New York-based cryptocurrency exchange, has announced support for Segregated Witness (SegWit) addresses and transaction batching. As a result, customers can now use SegWit addresses for bitcoin deposits and withdrawals, ideally improving processing times and lowering bitcoin withdrawal fees.

Nestlé and Carrefour to Share Product Data With Consumers Via Blockchain

Source: Nestlé

Food producer Nestlé and retailer Carrefour will equip the packaging of a French instant mashed potato product with a QR code that provides blockchain-based data about its origins to consumers. The pilot was developed in conjunction with IBM Food Trust.

IMF and World Bank Launch 'Learning Coin'

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have launched a permissioned blockchain-based "educational" digital token called Learning Coin. The token is inaccessible to the public and has no monetary value, but was developed to help agency staff becomes familiar with the principles behind distributed ledgers and cryptocurrencies.