The big social media sites have been clamping down on, well, pretty much any content that doesn’t advocate for something left of center. In response to this people whose personal ideology lies to the right of the center have been fleeing to other platforms. Those who fall towards the fascist side of the political spectrum have been fleeing to Gab, a social media site that advertises itself as a free speech platform. But hard times have befallen Gab because most of the services it relies on have decided to disassociate with it:
Gab, a “free speech” alternative to Twitter that’s popular with the far right, has been shut down after losing service from a number of mainstream technology platforms, including PayPal, Joyent, Medium, and GoDaddy.
“Gab is under attack,” the company’s home page now reads. “We have been systematically no-platformed by App Stores, multiple hosting providers, and several payment processors.” Gab is working to get back online using new service providers.
Of course the language that “Gab is under attack” is hyperbole. Nobody is attacking Gab. Service providers who disagree with much of the speech that Gab hosts have decided to stop doing business with the social media site. Since Gab’s administrators have made themselves dependent on these service providers, they have found themselves in a rather awkward position.
I can’t say that I blame these service providers. If I administered a social media site, I wouldn’t let fascists use it to post their nonsense (I also wouldn’t let communists, Republicans, Democrats, or any other politically focused individuals use it) nor would I want to associate it with any service that did. However, if I was planning to setup a site to host, to put it politely, controversial content, I would ensure that I owned the infrastructure from top to bottom. The servers would be mine. I’d accept payment in cryptocurrencies so I wouldn’t be dependent on third-party payment processors. If it wasn’t the primary way to access the site, I’d at least publish a Tor Hidden Service address to protect against censorship from Internet service providers and domain registrars.
What gets me most about sites like Gab is that they advertise themselves as being willing to host controversial content but still make themselves dependent on third-parties that don’t want to associate with anybody who hosts such content. Setting up a website that is resistant to third-party censorship isn’t terribly difficult (and doesn’t require anywhere near the same level of care as hosting outright illegal content) but none of these sites bother to do it. It’s as if they want to be censored just so they have something to bitch about and can feed some kind of persecution complex.
5 thoughts on “Meet Voluntary Association”
“Setting up a website that is resistant to third-party censorship isn’t terribly difficult”
How about setting up a social media network — as opposed to just a “web site” — that is resistant to third party censorship?
The weak points in all of this seem to be:
2) Payment processing
3) Domain registration
It seems to me that (to throw out some buzzwords) that some kind of distributed/decentralized application not relying on central servers would be the requirement for addressing the weaknesses of (1) and (3), while cryptocurrency, as you point out, addresses (2).
To throw out some more buzzwords, it seems to me that P2P (including torrent type stuff) and the app running (more or less) as a blockchain-type “mining” node to maintain the network traffic might be applicable to (1) and (3).
I try to investigate new social media as they come out, and I see a lot of talk about “decentralized” and “blockchain” stuff, but they still seem to rely on centralized servers/hosting and conventional domain name availability.
This really needs to be fixed in much the same way that PGP turned the war over crypto into a shouting match over crypto, with the bad guys able to talk big but not really do that much about it anymore.
Whether a site is social media or a simple blog, it’s still just a website. So avoiding censorship for a social media site is the same as avoiding censorship for any other type of website.
Hosting is a matter of acquiring hardware to host the site on and set it up in your dwelling.
Payment processing can be handled with whatever cryptocurrencies you so choose.
Domain name registrations are unnecessary if you’re hosting your site, whether it’s social media or not, as a Tor hidden service (your URL becomes based on your public key).
A decentralized hosting solution would be the most censorship resistant method and that’s what RetroShare has been trying to provide for ages. Of course it’s not as streamlined as a centralized solution so people are resistant to using it but if people actually want to avoid being censored, learning a new paradigm is necessary.
Well, yes, a website is a website, even if it is also a social medium.
But an application/protocol/social medium need not necessarily operate AS a website. BitTorrent doesn’t. SnapChat doesn’t. Etc.
I’m thinking of something like a BitTorrent DHT-type protocol, perhaps with a “mining” function to reward those who host “seeds” of the social “timeline” with a cryptocurrency/token, with that token in turn being spendable for the ability to post to the timeline. So in order to be active on the medium, you would have to give it some of your CPU time.
Holy crap — I had never heard of RetroShare, but from about 10 seconds on its page it looks a LOT like what I’m talking about.
RetroShare is a really cool idea that’s been around for ages but, unfortunately, never really picked up much momentum. I’ve used it for some projects with some other people and I’ve recommended it to people who desired a decentralized and more secure alternative to social media sites.
There is a learning curve and its peer-to-peer nature can make it a pain to setup on a restrictive network. But once it’s working, it’s pretty slick (although the interface looks like it was designed in the early 2000s). In addition to being decentralized, its protocol is based on private/public key pairs, which are used to encrypt traffic between nodes.
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