We are happy to see that Steemit Inc has finally decided to start a discussion about fighting abuse and what should be considered as abuse. We will try in this post to give a general overview of the problem, but we will mainly focus on the discussions, ideas, and solutions that people have suggested.
If you are new here, we have already posted on the issue of abuse, you can read the posts first before continuing:
What can we find about fighting abuse in the Steem whitepaper?
Regardless of how much money any one individual has, there are always many other individuals with similar wealth. Even the wealthiest individual rarely has much more than the next couple wealthiest combined. Furthermore, those who have a large investment in a community also have the most to lose by attempting to game the voting system for themselves. It would be like the CEO of a company deciding to stop paying salaries so he could pocket all of the profits. Everyone would leave to work for other companies and the company would become worthless, leaving the CEO bankrupt rather than wealthy.
Fortunately, any work that is getting a large concentration of votes is also gaining the most scrutiny (publicity). Through the addition of negative-voting it is possible for many smaller stakeholders to nullify the voting power of collusive groups or defecting large stakeholders. Furthermore, large-stakeholders have more to lose if the currency falls in value due to abuse than they might gain by voting for themselves. In fact, honest large stakeholders are likely to be more effective by policing abuse and using negative voting than they would be by voting for smaller contributions.
The use of negative-voting to keep people from abusing the system leverages the crab mentality that many people have when it is perceived that one individual is profiting at the expense of everyone else. While crab mentality normally refers to short-sighted people keeping good people down, it is also what allows good people to keep bad people down. The only “problem” with crab mentality is when people wrongly believe someone is profiting at everyone else's expense.
The Story of the Crab Bucket:
A man was walking along the beach and saw another man fishing in the surf with a bait bucket beside him. As he drew closer, he saw that the bait bucket had no lid and had live crabs inside.
"Why don't you cover your bait bucket so the crabs won't escape?", he said.
"You don't understand.", the man replied, "If there is one crab in the bucket it would
surely crawl out very quickly. However, when there are many crabs in the bucket, if
one tries to crawl up the side, the others grab hold of it and pull it back down so that
it will share the same fate as the rest of them."
So it is with people. If one tries to do something different, get better grades, improve herself, escape her environment, or dream big dreams, other people will try to drag her back down to share their fate.Eliminating “abuse” is not possible and shouldn’t be the goal. Even those who are attempting to “abuse” the system are still doing work. Any compensation they get for their successful attempts at abuse or collusion is at least as valuable for the purpose of distributing the currency as the make-work system employed by traditional Bitcoin mining or the collusive mining done via mining pools. All that is necessary is to ensure that abuse isn’t so rampant that it undermines the incentive to do real work in support of the community and its currency.
The goal of building a community currency is to get more “crabs in the bucket”. Going to extreme measures to eliminate all abuse is like attempting to put a lid on the bucket to prevent a few crabs from escaping and comes at the expense of making it harder to add new crabs to the bucket. It is sufficient to make the walls slippery and give the other crabs sufficient power to prevent others from escaping.
Is code law?
Code is indeed law and should be considered as such. If the code allows a person to do X things, then he should be able to do these things without any objection. We believe that no one would care if someone posts several unoriginal publications on Facebook, people use other people's work all the time and no one really cares about it unless people are trying to profit from it. On Steem, it is a different thing. The question of content is closely related to the economy of the chain, there is a limited reward pool that all users are sharing by engaging in upvotes to distribute it in the fairest way.
Thus, we can say the code allows people to engage in abuse, but at the same time, the code also allows what is called negative-voting so people can regulate the distribution of rewards. We wanted to emphasize this fact since users tend to forget that the freedom of doing things on the chain also intersects with the freedom of negative-voting on the chain.
Limiting the number of posts?
We are against this idea. We believe that people are still making the same mistake again by considering Steem only as a blogging platform. People need to learn that there could be other dapps that have no relation with blogging which will also try to leverage the reward pool. In summary, people should be able to publish as much as they want and receive as many awards as possible as long as they do nothing that is considered as abuse by the community and the majority of stakeholders.
How about self-voting?
Self-voting goes literally against the concept of proof of brain and doing it adds no value to Steem (apart from mining the token), and we are talking here precisely about self-voting that only aims to generate revenue.
As a community, we should instead encourage people to curate genuine authors on Steemit. We do understand that a lot of people might not have the time to scan the chain for worthy contributions, but thanks to the DPOS (Delegated Proof of Stake) model, people can delegate their stake to other people or projects that are dedicated to curation and content discovery.
We also believe that anyone who is constantly self-voting is just here on Steem to extract value instead of creating it. Because as demonstrated in the whitepaper, it goes against the interest of investors to abuse the reward pool since doing so will affect the ecosystem as a whole and lower the value of STEEM.
We may also add that several members of the community have already suggested some interesting ideas to fight self-voting and voting rings, we would like to invite you to check them from here:
- Steem proposal to reduce voting rings and self-voting.
- Revoting Power to counter Upvote Circles and Bid Bot Abuse.
Self-voting should only be considered as abuse when users are doing it repeatedly for the sole reason to generate revenue. If someone is providing very high-quality posts, the community could see it justifiable since a lot of work was put in the posts, but at the same time, people might agree that no one can write 4-5 very high-quality posts each day. There is a limitation here that the community can use to decide whether people who are heavily self-voting is something that could be seen as justifiable.
For dapps that can self-vote to generate revenue for a reason or another, We believe it up to the witnesses or anyone from the community to investigate the situation. This is really unsustainable, the goal of Steem is not (according to the whitepaper) to have thousands to dapps all leveraging the limited reward pool, but rather to use SMT to catalyze the growth and mass adoption.
Cybercrime? Abuse? How to know for sure?
As we have already said in Anti-Abuse Initiative | Steem Sentinels, we understand very well that the spectrum of what should be considered as abuse can be very wide and vary depending on several factors such as culture and religion.
But we believe that there are things that do not need to wait for the community consensus to start fighting them. Because not doing so will directly endanger the prosperity of the chain by having hostile actors that are external to the chain (state actors) constantly chasing witnesses and members of the community.
This might appear trivial and with no importance, but we have an obligation toward what made all of this possible. To promote the blockchain technology instead of becoming the catalyzer of its decline or bad reputation.
How to reach consensus?
Although receiving and discussing feedback from the community is of the utmost importance. We believe, however, that consensus should only be considered and based on a stake-weighted mechanism. It may sound harsh, but we need something as rigid as the consensus on other chains such as Bitcoin.
People generally buy more shares in companies to have more influence on decisions and board meetings. One dangerous thing we should avoid is giving more importance to politics and drama over economics.
We have seen before how, despite the fact that the majority rejected the 50%/ 50% split, the changes were pushed because the majority of stakeholders decided to do so.
One of the things we really do not like is laying to the community about the reality of how things operate just for political reasons or to attract more support. The community needs to be aware of what to expect and how the blockchain functions. If we are to lead the Steem blockchain, we need to keep our community far from fairytales and sugary posts about how the community is the real deal but yet those same people did not apply the changes that the community wanted for the last 4 years.
We will always promote the truth for only the truth will allow us to break through the lies and the obedience that is based on ignorance and the monopolization of information. The reality might be painfully, but at least, it will allow us to build our chain on a solid foundation instead of an illusion, a mirage of something that we all wish for but will never get.
As a side note, there is the ability to use multisignature but we really think that this is just like adding more layers of difficulties for something that should be based on trust and personal evaluation, especially if people are doing it by donating their own time and not gaining anything from it.
How about trolling comments?
Even though "trolling" can be seen as really bad by some users, we do not think that we should fight trolls. If the act of trolling does not violate any TOS, people should be able to troll and people could downvote them if they wish (individual decision). If the act trolling contains something that is against the TOS or contains an indication of cybercrime, then the situation should be taken more seriously by applying heavy measures.
One would say, "why are you so meticulous about this?", it is because we need to make sure to not fall in the traps that many projects fell in, things should note be personnel, we need to act professionally and according to known protocols and measures. We should never make it seems like an act of revenge but rather like a business and strategic decision. We must never succumb to emotions but trait every situation logically, if something does not work, we update the set of protocols and move on.
As an addition, here are 2 interesting posts by Steemit Inc, when they brainstormed the community before about the possibility to solve the trolling and other related issues directly on the UI side:
Why should anyone waste his time on Steem by creating value just so other people extract it by milking the system? If we allow milking, we might be better off just removing PoB and just use PoW instead.
Farming, milking, two sides of the same coin.
Incentivizing comments is really important, especially for projects that might be interested to start something like 4chan (imageboard) or Toekbb (VB forum-like). However, unless projects are using their SMT, we should keep an eye on comment farming very closely and trait it as any other form of abuse.
We believe Steemit Inc should provide ways for people to promote their posts without using bid bots by only doing the proper change on the UI, and work on providing more options for owners to monetize their communities. Users could simply pay Steemit Inc for a spot on trending, or send X amount of Steem/SBD to Null or DAO.
Apart from really important announcements, people should avoid using BB, if users decide to use it, we advise them to send the extra ROI to DAO since what they really wanted is more visibility. If the aim is to generate a high ROI, then we are 100% against it.
Here is an interesting proposal that we invite everyone to read:
Who should decide whether X is abuse or note?
As with any other decision on the chain, everything should be based on consensus, a stake-weighted consensus. Of course, since the community is what keeps the chain running and exercise the PoB, it would be foolish for investors not to listen to what the community has to say.
How do we ensure rules are applied equally to all users?
Similarly to the case of sovereign states. People choose a president to lead them towards a better life, towards development and prosperity. But the truth is that they have no real guarantees that the president will fulfill all of his promises. The good thing about Steem is that users can easily withdraw trust and support from X without having to wait for a political or juridical procedure.
The community here must choose trustworthy people who will implement the promises and agreements without any discrimination or favoritism. If we want to make sure that the mistakes of the past will not happen again, we need to make people accountable for their acts. In addition to entrusting fighting abuse to people with vision, people who seek long-term growth for the Steem blockchain, far from the downfalls of human nature.
Short answer: Acountability + Using the right poeple
Who will be the judge and jury?
People who are supported by the majority, as simple as that.
But we need to understand here that everyone has the right to be a jury. If the majority decides that X is not abuse, every other user has the right to think otherwise and act accordingly.
The majority here should not be seen like some kind of lethal enforcement of a new law, but rather as an indicator of what the majority of users on the chain think about X.
How about having a Community Council?
Having a Community Council can be a good idea, but one important thing here is to avoid complicating the structure in such a way that it will make the work of people impossible because of a bureaucratic-like hell.
Conflict of interest?
We like to think logically about the situation and not sugar coat the reality.
All stakeholders have the right to protect their investment and the value of STEEM. If the consensus about X is established, it should be respected regardless if it is regarded as a conflict of interest or not.
Now the stakeholders also know that if a witness is abusing his power, then he will directly affect the chain and thus, lowering the value of their investment. So, there is a huge incentive for stakeholders to note support users that are negatively affecting the blockchain.
But we agree that if there are cases that directly involve X, then X should not be allowed to be part of the final decision-making process.
Discussing abuse cases through posts and comments
We believe that fighting abuse requires fast decisions, as we said in one of our previous posts, it is more like a delegation of trust than a delegation of power. There is a reality here that fighting abuse requires a certain level of dynamic that we can not achieve if we are too rigid with how we should operate.
But we highly emphasize on the importance of creating open and clear channels with the community, people who fight abuse need to be completely transparent and ready to discuss issues and provide support.
Fighting abuse by modifying the code
While we are not against the idea, we urge the community to exercise caution and restraint and avoid the promotion of changes that could damage the chain. Critical situations and events usually have a magnifying effect which will lead people to overestimate the situation and thus, supporting drastic changes with no proper care to meticulously analyze the potential consequences of the changes.
The Steem blockchain should not be considered as an experimental field for changes anymore, all proposed changes should pass through a rigorous analysis with a long term strategy in mind.
Yes, we can always revert the changes if they did not work as intended, but we think that we should not push micro-changes to solve things that can not be solved or are against the identity of the chain because the economy of the chain is currently based on a human factor, we will be always chasing abusers with changes because we can not 100% mitigate the problem unless we remove PoB.
As mentioned in the whitepaper, we should start fighting by doing what the current code allows us to do. Our current efficiency to fight abuse is very low even though there is enough Steem Power to keep the chain secure and clean.
We should only consider changes in the code once the current methods of fighting abuse become ineffective (scaling problem).
Our current efforts are scattered and ineffective, we are too divided to make any real impact.
Fighting abuse is not a game, we need to give a strong image on the chain and provide professional support. What we mean by image here is having people with whom the community can speak, unknown/anonymous vigilantism must be avoided because we need people to be accountable.
We are wasting too much time on something that should have been done months ago. if there is an issue of trust then we need to fix it right now.
Thank you all,
witness-category witness steem steemit abuse