Since the early 1990s, any development of disruptive technology was subject to some kind of government censorship. It began with the crypto-wars, where Phil Zimmerman was prohibited from distributing his own PGP technology, that allowed better encryption in open source; went through the file sharing wars, where the recording and movie industry went on a legal struggle against file sharing software developers, from Napster, Grokster and eMule to Bittorrent, and it went even in little Israel, where the government issued warrants to block gambling websites. Every time forces try to block some kind of behavior, be it illegal or just unwanted, the technology evolves and prevails.
Any technology that is developed, from its conception, as censorship resistant, would require longer incubation and growth time, but would definitely prevail over its centralized developers.
We can see it with bitcoin. Bitcoin was developed back in 2008 and launched early 2009. It was developed as a decentralized, distributed, network. It learned the lessons of Bittorrent and uses similar features: peer to peer networks are censorship resistant because they have no one point of failure. Open-source software are censorship resistant because there is no one developer. On the other hand, there is no money in investing in the development of these, as they are provided for free to the public. Therefore, it takes time to grow and requires a good community.
Parler, the nazi-enabling social network, learned this the hard way today. For those of you who do not know, Parler is a social app that declared that it is less strict in enforcing speech regulation than the competition. It will enable people almost limitless speech in respect to hate. Today, we learned that both Apple and Google kicked Parler from their application stores and Amazon had stopped hosting the service.
This effectively kills Parler. Why? because relying on a central point of failure, meaning their hosting provider, meant that if the hosting provider took down the website, the entire service is down.
Now, I’m not going into whether this is justified or not. I can’t blame Parler for enabling this sort of speech, because it may have evolved otherwise, or may have set up new features. I do think that this is a good time to discuss why only decentralized solutions could be disruptive.
Why? because only when you are censorship resistant, you know that no one point of failure would block you. Israeli authorities can block your website as much as they want, but if you’re using TOR or a VPN, then this blocking is moot. US courts can claim bittorrent is illegal as much as they want, but as long as there is not “bitcoin” company to close and servers to confiscate, then there is nothing do be done to stop it.
Parler’s winding down is a great time to discuss real, decentralized, social networks. Places where the community itself has control over the community standards, places where no one group has too much power to effect elections or democratic processes, and places where the truth could prevail over lies.