What Can We Do Against Unethical Content on Decentralized Systems?

Introduction

With the emerge of increasing state&corporate surveillance and censorship, there
is an opposite reaction: Decentralization.

As our technological capabilities developed, our techniques are evolving too. Formerly, there were central servers and clients; then we created distributed architectures, where everyone (with enough resources) can build up a server. After, P2P is born; but some of them were not completely decentralized(BitTorrent), and the ones which completely decentralized(Freenet, Retroshare, …) are slow for daily usage.

But this will change.

We are developing strong cryptography software, creating overlay networks and even building a new network infrastructure. It gets harder, harder and harder to control these things but this comes with some negative effects.

Problem

It’s not false that child porn, terrorism and other illegal things are used by state&corporations against privacy, but this is also true that we don’t have any solutions (yet) against these things on decentralized systems.

I use the word unethical because what is legal is not always ethical and what is illegal is not always unethical. And it’s your decision to support something while being against something else.

Solution

The solution is user initiative. Every user on the network should be able to decide in favor of doing or not doing something. For example I find child porn unethical (really) and I don’t want to spread it, by storing or transffering it.

By this way, while not allowing any central authority to control the network, individuals can decide on their actions.

Technical Solutions

Although not being an expert, I think some simple techniques for achieving this. We can combine encrypt-and-sign and Web-of-Trust. We can use this approach as whitelist(only accept from people which is in my WoT) or as blacklist (reject which is blacklisted by people in my WoT) by checking the signatures.

I don’t know if this is an applicable solution (and purpose of this article is a request for more user initiative in distributed systems, not a technical explanation) but I believe that we can find a solution to that, as we decentralized it.

4 thoughts on “What Can We Do Against Unethical Content on Decentralized Systems?

  1. Trost Osler

    You’ve put together an interesting argument but you’ve made an assumption that unethical content is actionable. Can you justify this assumption? Should we do anything at all about unethical content in the first place?

    Is it ethical to give anyone the right to remove content (ethical or otherwise) from a decentralized system?

    Reply
    1. Bora Alper Post author

      Should we do anything at all about unethical content in the first place?

      I believe yes, we should. Even if it’s not our resposibility, we can at least not help those persons. Of course, this is completely user’s decision. I don’t want to help to pedobears, right-wing extremists etc. but your preferences may be different.

      Is it ethical to give anyone the right to remove content (ethical or otherwise) from a decentralized system?

      Some may say that, if we can block some data, than everything can be censored. No, it’s not true. I’m not talking about a central power(democratic or not) to regulate, I’m talking about individuals and their decisions. It’s also natural: My computer, my resources; I may allow you to use it or not.

      Also, if you can remove something from a decentralized system, it’s probably not so decentralized. :)

      Thanks for reading and your comment!

      Reply

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