Thinking Big about Bitcoin Again: Removing the Cancer of Reddit
Little by little we will keep thinking big about how we can transform what Bitcoin is.
At CoinGeek Week we had the pleasure of sitting down with Ryan X Charles of Yours Inc and Jason Chavannes of Memo.cash to talk about social media and Bitcoin. A central question I wanted to ask the two was how they envisioned we could solve the trolling problem with Bitcoin. Ryan’s presentation had a central idea to it that has not left my mind since hearing it: “Every problem with Bitcoin can be solved with Bitcoin”. Going back to the founding of /r/btc, the big blocker Bitcoin community was united in their hatred of the censorship found on /r/Bitcoin. The Bitcoin subreddit was given so much power over the direction of Bitcoin that censorship was able to actually affect its development. /r/btc has been committed to “free and open discussion”, and yet the quality of discussion is so poor that most people who have opinions worth listening to have stopped looking at it. The problem is an inherent problem with Reddit itself, and one that Bitcoin can solve.
When I first discovered Reddit, it was one of the few times I have felt like the internet as a resource of information could truly change the world. This was in the early days of Reddit, and I remember being amazed that a platform was able to turn data into information with the use of upvotes and deliver content that was valuable to me based on the things I was interested in. I remember reading a personal account from a girl in Pakistan who was sharing her experience living in a war-torn country. I remember the next second reading first-hand accounts about the effects of tax policies in Australia. I was learning new things about programming. I was seeing the world through a global lense, and anyone could contribute by creating an account and posting. This was a time when people actually thought it was “special” to meet other people who knew what Reddit was. There were stupid (cringey) jokes about how to identify other redditors in real life. The content you saw was valuable because the nodes in the Reddit network were real nodes. They were real people with real interests determining what was actually valuable. Of course, this couldn’t last forever, and Reddit quickly became a lesson in Sybil attacks.
A subreddit called /r/hailcorporate arose over time and was devoted to calling out highly upvoted posts on the Frontpage that were clearly part of marketing campaigns for large corporations. It became clear to me just how bad the entire website had gotten as I used it to follow the 2016 election in the United States. I saw valuable and factual information quickly downvoted anytime it was posted. I saw articles and opinion pieces that obviously favored certain candidates’ agendas get a suspicious number of upvotes in a small amount of time. It became clear to me that the Reddit network was a failure. There was no way to guarantee that the content that was brought to the top was actually valuable — it was simply information that someone wanted to be made highly visible and could pay for enough nodes in the network to get it to the center of the network. Tim Pool, an independent journalist, exposed Reddit for this when he made a video about easy it was to make fake news and game Reddit and paid for it to be on the Frontpage. In an ironic twist, the Reddit administrators deleted the video for astroturfing.
In Bitcoin, the non-business minded focus of the community has led us to believe that Reddit matters. Because of this, the moderators of subreddits like /r/Bitcoin and /r/btc have convinced themselves that what they are doing is important to the future of Bitcoin. Since /r/Bitcoin has been examined to death, we can take a look at /r/btc and examine how Bitcoin can (and will) make it irrelevant. There is a paranoia inherent to the moderators of the subreddit that it is constantly under attack by “CSW shills”. The irony of this is that if it were true, then for a very rich man, CSW is terrible at hiring shills. If you watched Tim Pool’s video above, you would see just how easy it is to actually get information to the top of Reddit, let alone small subreddits like /r/btc. In the weeks leading up to the hashwar, there was a clear bias in the subreddit towards Bitcoin ABC. Every time we post in the subreddit, it is downvoted extremely quickly and the same 5 Reddit accounts poke their heads out to let us know how they feel about us. Of course, we are paid shills that have no opinions of our own. Weirdly enough (not really), comments on YouTube, Memo, and Twitter are much more reasonable (even if they disagree), and that is having only blocked one or two accounts on Twitter.
At the root of this is the inherent problem with thinking of Bitcoin as a “community”. When the community is at the whim of a network that can be Sybil attacked for $30, then it is no community at all. Bitcoin was designed to be resilient to Sybil attacks. It is a network free from the grasps of Proof of Social Media, but only if miners wield the power given to them to be businesses ignorant of the whims of Reddit users. Reddit “communities” like /r/btc have succeeded in doing one thing only: allowing an outlet for users to have their “5 minutes of hate” for whoever has been deemed the enemy of the day. Whether that is Craig Wright, Ryan X Charles, or Unwriter, all gather around the fake community to direct their anger at who is next to betray the Bitcoin community.
So, we have Bitcoin — how can we make information valuable again?
Yours.org is the first experiment in making content curation an economic system. Users can spend money getting things to the top of the site, and if other users also deem it valuable, the initial voters on the content can get their money back and even profit. Content creators can charge people money to view content, and purchasers can review the content to let others know if the content was worth the money. It is a fantastic service, but it is only the beginning of what Bitcoin allows for.
The problem of determining whether a node in the network is a real node is something that Bitcoin brings: Pseudonymous identities backed by reputation of past events competing in a free market to deliver value to other identities. Those that get valuable content to others get rewarded. Value is an inherent property of all data that lives in the blockchain, determined by the natural economic forces of the metanet. Censorship is impossible as everything recorded is immutably stored in the chain. One YouTube commenter sarcastically compared the discussion we had with the Chinese social credit system that has emerged. Again, this misses the promise of what Bitcoin brings.
Craig Wright had a fantastic article about how Bitcoin is designed to prevent the social credit system envisioned by the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” from destroying value from the economy. The thing that scares us all about the social credit system implemented by the Chinese government is that it is possible for all governments (or large corporations) to implement similar systems today. Google could start rate-limiting your searches if you are a heavy user or a consistent searcher of content deemed inappropriate by Google. Amazon could start delaying your packages based on the purchases you make. We see this behavior already from large social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.
As we covered in our introduction, humanity and big data are an inevitable pairing. Bitcoin allows us to “take everything socialist about the internet and make it capitalist”. This means allowing us to have a reputation system based on open markets, and not determined by trusted third parties. In the Black Mirror episode the main character’s social credit rating is constantly being determined by an algorithm run by a trusted third party based on the opinion of other users in the network. Bitcoin doesn’t care who you are — it only cares what value you create. This is what the real promise of the fourth industrial revolution brings — value and proof of work. If you create value, you win. If you stagnate, you regress.
There is an obsession in Bitcoin that the opinions of the “OG’s” matter more than others. An old bitcointalk thread describes the “ranks of nobility” of Bitcoiners based on how many Bitcoins one holds. This idea is just another way to ignore the value of what people are offering and to instead rely on some outside social credit ranking deemed by an arbitrary group of “OG Bitcoiners”. This manifests itself entirely in Reddit. Users with no skin in the game relying on their given social credit score to spread the 5 minutes of hate on the next “enemy of Bitcoin”.
The cancer of Proof of Social Media is being removed from Bitcoin. We are going to make Bitcoin SV cash for the world, and you are free to join us as long as you create value. Start thinking of how you can bring more value to peoples’ lives, and ignore the trolls who wish nothing but to direct their hate at your vision.