Downvoting, Can It Be Illegal?

11개월 전

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Downvoting, Can It Be Illegal?


On the Steem ecosystem there are many different opinions about what Steem should be like and how the reward pool can be managed. However, today I would like to discuss with you the possibility of certain downvoting or flagging behavior that could potentially be legally risky.

It is easy for a person to assume that downvoting content on the Steem blockchain would be no different from "smashing the dislike button" on Youtube or on Facebook. Many of these social media sites provide users with the ability to express that they like or dislike a particular piece of content.

So, why would the downvote feature on Steem be any different? Let's look at how Steem is different from all other social networks.

Steem Is A Public Utility


The term utilities can also refer to the set of services provided by these organizations consumed by the public: Coal, electricity, natural gas, water, sewage, telephone, and transportation. Broadband internet services (both fixed-line and mobile) are increasingly being included within the definition.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_utility)

The politicians are riled by the activities of Twitter, Google and Facebook and it seems new regulations are inevitable. Twitter has been referred to as a public square and for that reason it is argued by many that it no longer has the right to be a private service and should be viewed as a public utility.

This stance is taken by many concerned individuals across several national lines as the liberties acknowledged by nation states around the world are not applied within the ecosystems of these internet businesses.

Unlike in the case of the private corporation managing the social platform Twitter, Steem, however, began immediately as a public utility. While Steemit.com and other frontends are private businesses for the time being and are not viewed as a public utility, the Steem blockchain itself is indeed a public utility owned by everyone and no one.

Similar to Facebook, we are seeing businesses being built on Steem and offering services that are exclusively operating on Steem and are entirely dependent on its ecosystem. Promotional services, contest services, content producing services and other new business services are forming on the Steem blockchain and investing large sums of capital toward these projects.

Steem's "Like" & "Dislike" Buttons Are Unique


People express their feelings about content all the time with a push of either a like or a dislike button on many websites. However, on the Steem ecosystem this ability can have an effect on a business' ability to gain visibility and possibly even function as a business within the Steem ecosystem.

Let's say a business, invested in a purchase of 300,000 STEEM in order to obtain visibility for their own service on their website. They didn't purchase 300,000 STEEM to give other people visibility, but to give themselves visibility, which is a logical action to take by most businesses. So they write articles about their business using their Steem account @selfpromoter, linking to their site and upvote their own content with the 300,000 Steem Power they purchased as a utility token for that very purpose.

However, then a small group of people, let's say 10 people each with 100,000 Steem Power, delegated half their SP to a collectively managed account called @vivalarevolucion, resulting in an account of 500,000 Steem Power. Now, these 10 people subscribe to a particular ideology that is not shared by the capitalism-loving capitalist known as @selfpromoter. These 10 fellows believe Steem is meant exclusively as a meritocracy with a reward pool that must remain sacred and untainted by the dastardly folk that would fill its blocks with memes, spam and other self-serving content. They seek to protect the universal oracle by adding @selfpromoter to a list for their bot to repetitively downvote.

Suddenly, @selfpromoter finds that all of his business' content is condensed and darkened to make difficult to discover by his target audience and all the $ valuations have gone from $3.75 to $0, resulting in a direct loss in ROI of $37 per day, and a larger loss in customer acquisitions.

Additionally, the bot would leave comments on all of his posts referring to the content as either spam, abuse, trash or plagiarism. The bot also threatened any viewers of the content that if they communicated with @selfpromoter they too would be put on a list for downvote harassment. So, @selfpromoter is not only having his expected ROI for investing in STEEM directly assaulted, but his business brand is undergoing defamation and his and all viewers' human rights, particularly freedom of association are being violated by this threatening bot.

All his time and effort has been wasted, his business has suffered economic and defamatory harm and it will take 13 weeks for him to recoop the initial investment amount from the purchase of 300,000 STEEM. All this time, effort and damage to @selfpromoter's reputation has an economic value that a court can appreciate and recognize. The ideologies of a pure community oracle for long-form content in a digital meritocracy is fine and dandy, but personal ideologies don't hold up in a court of law as a legitimate excuse for causing economic harm to a business.

Downvoting an account once or twice can't be used against you. However, if you pursue a business or individual on Steem with the intent to repetitively prevent them from utilizing their purchased Steem Power or performing standard functions on a common public utility such as Steem, be prepared to one day receive a letter from a lawyer.

To @steemitblog, @steempeak, @busy.org

I warmly encourage you to be extra cautious. Accounts such as abusereports refer to Steem users as "trash" and threaten all other users that might be interacting with the account that abusereports deems bad can result in aggression from that account. This is a violation of freedom of association and every Steem-based business hosting a condensor frontend should not tolerate any presence of an account making such a threat.

Downvote/flag harassment is not acceptable and it is the accounts that harass other accounts that should not be tolerated, not the self-voters or bidbot customers. Any activities that are found distasteful by the Steem community should be handled by hardfork changes to the protocol in a code is law approach and not by downvote harassment.

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Great post and awesome creativity that the Steemit Community needs I feel the same way also it was a recent Steemit poll to expand muting and I feel if muting expansion was implemented it would take care of 65% of your topic and bring a respectful balance to the Steemit Blockchain which it greatly needs at this moment of growth survival I truly appreciate you and would vote you as a witness yes I would thanks stay well and steem on

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Thanks @garrettwallace, I really appreciate your nice comment.

I agree about muting. I think downvoting content is completely unnecessary, really, muting solves the problem of having to see content you disagree with. I don't want anyone to be forced to be around the kind of content they dislike, but downvoting content in a harassing way is completely not appropriate.

Thanks again for your comment!

@mack-bot you are systematically harassing me. You and your delegators such as @misterdelegation can become legally liable for damages.

while idiots harrassing is an issue, downvoting is a necessary evil to create balance on the platform. Good luck at trying to create a legal case on a system which is owned by all the nodes that make up the blockchain and are found all over the world.

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You don't have to sue all the nodes, just the account that repeats the downvotes. It is simple, Steemit Inc./Steempeak, whatever frontend you use will give up whatever information they have on you and we'll be able to find out who you are. Once that is done its all down hill from there.

Don't think you're anonymous on Steem. You are not.

In fact, all 20 witnesses can be sued. So, they are subject to the laws too. They might one day agree to remove your STEEM from your account. Don't think its impossible, its possible. That's the weakness of DPoS.

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If you will recall, there was some pushing to remove STEEM from the Steemit Inc account. It would take a hardfork for that to happen which means the agreement of 17 of the top 20 and someone to actually code that into the blockchain.

As for your premises about lawsuits... that has worked so well on centralized platforms hasn't it? OH wait, hasn't worked at all. So, as I said, good luck with that. You might manage to create a precedent should you try it.


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I am not necessarily endorsing lawsuits, I am making an argument for their plausibility. That said, if someone greatly hindered a project of mine on Steem via excessive flagging, I most certainly would give it the old college try. Why not?

It would be easy to get 17 witnesses to work together when lawyers are involved. The difference between Steem and something like Bitcoin or Ethereum, is that the witnesses are out in the open and there are not many of them. DPoS makes fast and reliable transactions, but the consensus system is completely reachable by the legal system.

I believe that the law would look at witnesses in a very similar way to trustees managing a trust. If so, then just as you can court order a trustee you could order a witness as well.

I agree that you cannot compel someone to code in changes, but with enough pressure at risk of legal action they might do it willingly. But the ability for governments to take someone's STEEM or delete it is more of a hypothetical, and not one I would like to ever see happen. But I do speculate on it that it might one day occur.

However, suing people on social media is and does happen. What lawsuits are you talking about?

Here is one example:

Sagehorn vs. Elk River School District (rewarded $425,000 over a tweet)

other examples:

"Parents Sue After Their Daughter Was Forced To Disclose Her Facebook Password"

Reward: $70,000

"Denise New was charged with harassment by her sixteen-year-old son, Lane New, who wanted criminal charges brought against his mom for “snooping.” She changed her sons Facebook password and posted slanderous comments on his wall. She then changed his email password so that he wouldn’t get updates from Facebook.

The mother was concerned about her son, and decided that creeping through his Facebook was part of her “parental duties.” State prosecutors agreed with the son, and charged Mrs. New under the state’s harassment laws."

Online reputational harm – including libel, slander, and violation of privacy costs $50,000 on average, according to Insurance Journal.

Source: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2015/04/09/363801.htm

Now here is some information about pseudonymous identities online:

In the civil litigation context, the legal system provides for a kind of lawsuit called a "John Doe" lawsuit, in which a plaintiff sues an unknown defendant -- for example, an anonymous blogger who allegedly libeled the plaintiff or revealed the plaintiff's confidential information. These suits may also be called "Jane Doe" or "Jean Doe" suits if it appears that the anonymous defendant is female. Once a party has filed a John Doe lawsuit, the rules of court procedure give the plaintiff tools to uncover the defendant's identity.

Source: http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/potential-legal-challenges-anonymity

It is very often successful. You can look up the subpoenas activity of the Jehovah's Witness religious group, which tries to find out the identities of the ex-members speaking negatively of its organization. They often find out the identities of the individuals on social media, which is not really used so much for lawsuits but to be able to initiate their community shunning program.

Ultimately, I believe the severity of the flagging is key. You would have to consider whether or not the flagging was occasional or persistent. You would have to look at the effect of the flag, if it only reduced the payout or if it indeed reduced visibility of the content. Was the account "marked" in any way? There are a lot of variables here.

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well you're engaging in a lot of wild speculation .. so enjoy

the vast majority of those trying to sue over so called hurts online end up gaining nothing and paying lawyers a lot. The true winners .. lawyers.

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I'm anti-flagging, so I support the notion even if it means all the money goes to the lawyers. If it shuts down the use of flagging by organized groups, I don't mind the lawyers profiting. But suing a flagging organization or a whale might become very affordable with the use of Steem Engine lawsuit tokens as a means of covering costs of litigation.

That said, only for clear harassment, so the amount of downvoting would have to indicate intent to perpetually follow content in order to damage its visibility.

This is not wild speculation though. The like buttons on most social platforms never had a direct correlation to income in the past. Steem is new technology, and online tokens like BAT, JSEcoin and other monetization tools will require the legislation to review this concept.

That said, this is only if Steem survives. In all honesty, the flagging feature has caused me to lose faith in this platform over time. I really wonder if it will survive after free flagging comes into existence.

But while you may disagree with my argument and my position on the matter, I appreciate that you took the time to read the post and share your comment.

Hi @blake.letras

Interesting topic. I never considered downvotes to be illegal and when I think about it then I wonder if any court out there would even take such a case.

Can you imagie being downvoted and losing 10 steem? or even 100 steem? Those would have to be very heavy downvotes to make anyone lose that much. And yet, it's less than 20$.

No court would care about it, I'm afraid.

Yours
Piotr

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I'm not talking about one or two whale downvotes. I am talking about downvote harassment which means that an account with a very large amount of SP is downvoting nearly all of your content continually to try and prevent your message from finding an audience in the Steem community.

Not only is that possibly illegal for US residence to do, since that is intentionally seeking to stifle someone's free speech. But if someone's business was completely built around the Steem ecosystem and the flagging account kept downvoting your content consistently it can be very possibly proved as malicious intent to harm that person's business.

It is not just about the loss in STEEM/SBD rewards, but also in customer acquisition and brand reputation.