This development has also surprisingly coincided with high levels of censorship against free speech by governments globally.
It is not surprising to learn of several countries blocking internet services to prevent real-time reporting of protests and imposing bans on popular social platforms. Unfortunately, big tech corporations are not left behind with giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram accused of censorship and deleting accounts.
A Classic Case of Censorship
Despite this growing censorship, governments and corporations appear to be losing the war. The most recent example is Nigeria which banned the use of the microblogging platform Twitter earlier in June.
The ban surprised many but resulted after Twitter deleted the Nigerian president’s comments some days earlier. A classic example of censorship meeting censorship. As a result, millions of Nigerians woke up the next day unable to access Twitter from their internet-enabled devices.
Interestingly, Nigeria has the highest number of Twitter users in Africa, and the government knew the effect a ban would have on the country. It is understood that the ban was due to the role Twitter played in the 2020 ‘End-Sars’ protest where its CEO Jack Dorsey led donations in Bitcoin following the freezing of bank accounts by the government.
As expected, the uproar that faced the decision to ban Twitter was massive, but the government has refused to reverse its decision. On the surface, the government claims that the move has been successful, but it has been a massive failure in reality.
Censorship Rarely Works
Many Nigerians switched to using virtual private networks (VPN) to access Twitter, with many Nigerian topics trending in foreign countries within the microblogging platform. In addition, a protest which occurred on June 12 was successfully coordinated on Twitter. This sent a clear message to the government that the ban could not limit free speech (which given this is Twitter, is the epitome of irony).
Interestingly enough, this came less than six months after the country banned financial institutions from processing crypto payments. Despite the initial difficulties, many Nigerian traders moved to P2P platforms to circumvent the ban. The latest reports also suggest that the P2P Bitcoin trading volumes from Nigeria are the highest in Africa, and this increase is due to the ban.
Nigeria is not the first country that has failed to censor citizens’ activities. Since China banned cryptocurrencies in 2017, the country has continued to feature as one of the top trading regions in the world. Citizens used VPNs to trade crypto on foreign platforms, and it also coincided with the rise of P2P platforms that enable safe transactions within the country.
Blockchain Provides Potentials for Maintaining Free Speech and Anti-Censorship Activities
Blockchain has significant potential to enable free speech. Since it is built on decentralized technology, information input is immutable and cannot be changed by third-party platforms. In addition, the increasing development of blockchain domains means that governments would find it difficult to delete domains or block domain servers.
With the recent uproar about big tech activities which reached its apex following the ban of Donald Trump on Twitter. There could be a surge towards alternative platforms based on blockchain technology. Chinese activities have started posting criticisms of the government on blockchain-based platforms to prevent censorship and reach their desired audience.
Blockchain alternatives have also begun to rise to major social networks. For example, LBRY and DTube are two popular video content sharing platforms that have emerged as competitors to YouTube in recent years and house popular crypto and mainstream influencers.
Brave Browser is built with blockchain ideals, and users are not limited by censorship efforts witnessed on Google Chrome. Steem is also a successful platform within the blockchain system, and thousands of users are rewarded for sharing information.
Blockster is also an ideal platform that is built on blockchain and provides users a safe environment to network and share information. These platforms noted above are some of the major platforms in the ever-evolving blockchain ecosystem.
Although centralized platforms have the edge in first-mover advantage and resources, blockchain platforms will eventually catch up. The blockchain industry also needs to ensure that it provides user-friendly features to ensure that new users can easily adjust.