Do you want Blockchain/DLT to finally give freedom of speech to the entire world? Do you believe freedom of speech this is a good thing and will help us in the long-run?
If you answered yes to both questions, then you can keep on reading. If you answered no to either question, please don't forget to downvote me before moving to another content, but please don't leave a comment.
First let's have a look at web 2.0 censorship.
1- Government in control
If you search naively on Wikipedia, it's easy to find some biased lists of censorship cases.
In most cases, it's either the government itself DNS blocking the platform for it's residents (like YouTube in China), or either the government is pushing a court order and forcing the platform to delete a certain post or user, if the platform refuses, then dns block will come.
No matter how scary this is, it is not really what I want to talk about today. There's more than 1 billion communists on the planet living under a strict regime, and even more believing in some form of religion that prohibits certain contents, and it won't change overnight. The world is how it is.
2- Platform in control
Instead, I want to talk about the other cases, when the censorship happens by a decision of the social network itself. The platforms are commercial entities that are ultimately seeking profit. When they censor something, there doesn't need to be any reason, or justice, unlike government control.
Twitter may suspend accounts, temporarily or permanently, from their social networking service. Suspensions of high-profile individuals from Twitter are unusual and when they occur often attract attention in the media.
1- Straight suspensions
The most straight-forward thing you can do to censor someone, is just to delete his account, delete his contents, and block his IP if he tries to make new accounts. The suspensed user receives an email or a popup on login, which basically tells him he's a goner and needs to find a new social network.
Wikipedia has a list of notable suspensions on twitter. You can see we have less than 100 notable cases, very often with an official reason given by Twitter. Needless to say, there must be thousands if not tens of thousands of real cases, without a publicly given reason.
I couldn't gather any numbers on facebook, but a precise google query shows there is at least thousands of people trying to appeal or complain about an account suspension on the Facebook help boards.
2- Algorithmic degradation
It is a less obvious way to censor users, that leaves less traces. Big platforms such as Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook/Instagram all provably utilize this technique.
Instead of deleting your account and sending you an email, it is more profitable to only limit the visibility of your contents. If hit by such an algorithm, you will still be able to login normally, post content, see your own content, even your friends will see your content. But it won't display in a generic search, or in any form of "trending". This way, you don't leave the platform, you keep making them money via ads or data collection, yet your visibility on the network is gone, and you aren't even aware of it.
Unlike straight suspension, this technique is also a way for platforms to slowly increase a penalty against a user. Each user has an 'authority' score, and based on it, your content is more or less likely to be discovered generically, and making it even harder to detect who is hit and who is not.
Web 3.0 censorship
Ok, now we know about all the existing techniques used to censor people on social medias. Can they apply on web 3.0 social medias such as Steem or Hive user interfaces?
Government has no control
Not even a government has enough power to change the data in a blockchain. It is a perfect immutable ledger, unless we start considering science fiction scenarios of a "internet split" which would basically turn internet into multiple intranets, and destabilize the governance of all blockchains, where governments would be able to take-over locally.
Governments can still use DNS blocking, but using it against nodes is inefficient as there are often hundreds of available, with more popping weekly. DNS blocking the domains serving the UIs seems like a possibility, but it wouldn't block non-web applications, such as eSteem, or static apps such as DTube, that can be ran locally, or served through IPFS.
Platforms have no control, unless...
If the account and content system is integrated in the blockchain or DLT technology powering a social media, it's obvious that the UIs will not have control over it. This is what happens in here, your account is theoretically safe.
If we wanted to go into the realm of science-fiction again, we would have to imagine that an evil platform would need to exert enough influence on the witnesses running the blockchain, and on the developers leading the blockchain project, to agree on overthrowing governance to add a blacklist of user accounts directly inside the blockchain code. Unthinkable, especially if you consider that most blockchain are open-source, and we only need one person to keep running the old but uncensored version!
Another possibility for UIs to remain somewhat in control, would be to do algorithmic censorship. If nobody can see what is in the code, anything can be happening, and nobody can prove anything. This is somewhat what is happening on @peakd with the blacklist system, that will hide certain contents, or display a negative marker for the smaller cases. @peakd is source-code is hidden, and so is the blacklist API, therefore we have absolutely no way to verify what is going on.
Unless it's open source!
If the UI is open-source, and the platform turns evil and starts censoring their users, not only it will show in the source-code, it would also be very easy for anyone to clone the code and run the same UI under a new name, but without the censorship, giving this new platform a competitive advantage over the censored one.
This is why I seriously invite all projects calling themselves "decentralized" and promoting free-speech to convert to a full open-source stack. By keeping their source-code private, the platform are keeping full control, exactly like 2.0 social medias, and they become the trojan horse of governments to stay in control too.
I've talked with @asgarth about it, and his answer was basically that going open-source was too risky. At least the guy is honest about his intentions.
Ok @heimindanger, but how to prevent the real bad stuff?
It's obvious we don't want the dweb to be a place for pedophilia, hate-speech or gore contents to thrive. I've been running DTube for 3 years now, monitoring uploaded videos, and checking firstname.lastname@example.org email daily. In total, I had to blacklist only 6 user channels, and 13 individual videos.
Those were always objectively bad, either copyright infringement, or something you really wouldn't show your kids. I also try to warn the users getting blacklisted with a comment on their latest content, alongside a copy of the DMCA email so they know why we have to do this. Please compare these numbers to the 74246 blacklisted users on the Hive blacklist ran by @themarkymark.
I believe there is a fine-line between censorship and moderation. For me, full transparency is the most important factor. If some users are abusing and degrading the experience of others, they need to be punished, but they should be aware, and should be given a clear reason. We are the early-users, and we are defining the rules that will be used by everyone in the future. Let's not fuck it up again and end up with the same situation than 2.0 platforms.