During the most recent immersion the Newhouse and Whitman schools from Syracuse University hosted in New York City, I learned a lot about block chain. Going into it, I thought, “What does this have to do with communication?”
Well, I learned how it can affect journalism and public relations. From the advertising side, I learned how it can increase your value as a consumer to advertisers. But none of that is what I am going to talk about right now.
For my social media class, I needed to find out what is trending. With block chain on my mind, that is exactly what I did. An article in Forbes magazine (no surprise) spelled it all out for me.
First of all, users of social media are currently treated basically equal, meaning if a user puts up content that gets 10,000 interactions, he/she is not compensated on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In the article, Sunny Dhillon points out that Barack Obama produced the “most liked Tweet in Twitter’s history,” but he saw no compensation for it.
A person doesn’t have to be President of the United States to go viral either. Dhillon also wrote that Helen Green, an artist, created a gif to honor David Bowie when he passed. As it grew in popularity, she eventually lost attribution.
Using block chain’s private ledger, artists like Green can continue to receive recognition for their work, if not direct compensation. Popular posts could generate revenue for the users because advertisers can find out where the content originated. This will make it easier for users to start demanding something for their “popularity” or ability to influence.
The other part of it actually partially relates back to block chain’s ability to create cryptocurrencies and user-generated platforms for accessing the Internet. So, while in the U.S., we are used to accessing most social media platforms for free, people in countries like China and North Korea see a very restricted Internet.
Dhillon points out that DECENT is a company that is decentralizing premium content. Users can purchase their token, DCT, they can pay for content, and, because it is decentralized, governments can’t block it.
Block chain can also legitimize, or rather, validate news and its sources, which can help bring back the trust in news that social media has eroded due to its ability to spread “fake news.”
All of this may mean that many social media networks will have to restructure how they profit from their users. However, giants like Facebook, which is working to launch its own currency, Libra, are certainly capable of keeping up with the ever-changing technology.