Carey Wedler /(ANTIMEDIA) As Facebook and other digital social platforms face repeated accusations of censorship, a new blockchain-based social networking platform is emerging — with the express purpose of combating censorship.
“We are basically living in an information age plagued by arbitrary censorship and digital amnesia, affecting every Internet user,” says AKASHA Project founder and CEO Mihai Alisie.
That digital amnesia, he argues, is a consequence of inefficient servers that fail to guarantee the permanence of information. As Bitcoin Magazine explains:
“Information ‒ web sites, documents, email archives, video, etc. ‒ can be either purposefully deleted by the governments and/or corporations that control today’s Internet, or, more simply but equally tragic, just disappear for lack of maintenance of the central servers where it’s hosted.”
The AKASHA Project, which aims to be a decentralized publishing platform akin to Medium or Reddit, is the result of various forms of technology intersecting to promote freedom of information and a free-flowing internet — traits AKASHA’s founder, Mihai Alisie, believes are central to the digital age.
“We believe that freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy are fundamental human rights that should be respected on the Internet as well as in real life,” explains the AKASHA Project. AKASHA stands for Advanced Knowledge Architecture for Social Human Advocacy.
“Moreover, we are a civilization transitioning to an information-based society, and as such we feel that the permanent storage of information for future generations is a critical issue we should be striving to solve as soon as possible.”
Lamenting the fact that internet users have outsourced their “freedom of expression and collective memory to corporations that don’t always have our best interests at heart,” Alisie pointed out in a recent blog post that corporations often comply with government requests for private information around the world — and must do so to stay in business.
He largely blames the existing technological infrastructure that pervades most servers, arguing their “centralized architecture enables the companies to honor such obnoxious requests in the first place.”
Alisie first conceived of the social media project when he was working on Ethereum, a blockchain app he co-founded that challenges “traditional servers” that are often isolated. “If a server goes down for any technical or commercial reason, or is taken down by the authorities, all the web pages stored on that server disappear,” Bitcoin Magazine explains. (Full disclosure: Alisie is also a founder of Bitcoin Magazine but previously left the company to start Ethereum and now, AKASHA.)
Ethereum describes itself as “a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.
“These apps run on a custom built blockchain, an enormously powerful shared global infrastructure that can move value around and represent the ownership of property.”
Though the blockchain is generally more associated with Bitcoin and financial transactions rather than social networking, its technology is core to the AKASHA Project (and will also have “a built-in infrastructure suitable for micropayments”). The blockchain is useful for AKASHA in part because, as Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle has explained (as cited by Alisie),
“Block Chain technology that enables the Bitcoin community to have a global database with no central point of control.”
Similarly, “With Ethereum we remove the need for servers, avoiding from design stage all the problems associated with censorship,” Alisie explained in a blog post for AKASHA, which was, fittingly, officially unveiled on May 3 — World Press Freedom Day. He also spoke about the widespread problem of censorship:
“All in all, history has taught us that when censorship shows its ugly face it usually isn’t in the best interest of society and people at large. On the contrary. Now, with all the horrible things that have happened you might think that we would learn from the mistakes we’ve made and avoid making them again.
“Sadly, that is not the case: The situation we are currently in, when it comes to freedom of expression, is one of the most precarious we have ever faced as a society.”
The AKASHA Project credits the “the hacker mindset” for “allowing [them] to look beyond blocks and disappointments, seeing them instead as interesting challenges that, if solved, can really make a difference.” In addition to Ethereum, it is made possible by a “technology stack” including IPFS (InterPlanetary File System), whose permanent web infrastructure provides “access to information through a planetary-scale information network without central points of failure and bottlenecks.” As Alisie noted in response to a comment on one of his blog posts, “Ethereum is mostly used for processing interactions while IPFS is used for content hosting/distribution.” Electron, React with Redux, and Node.js are also included in the stack.
The AKASHA Project says their goal is to-
“explore the applications and implications of a permanent web in the context of social networks, freedom of expression, creative perpetuity, and privacy for a better Internet in service of humanity.”
According to the new platform, AKASHA is a Sanskrit word for “the unseen medium that pervades the universe and, in Eastern religions and spiritual traditions, serves as a substrate for the ‘Akashic Records’ ‒ a permanent repository embedded in the fabric of space-time for all the information that is ever produced in the universe” — a fitting name for the ambitious new project.
The AKASHA Project plans to launch both its alpha and beta testing phases later this year, but Alisie says they have already received an overwhelming outpouring of support for the project. As he pointed out:
“After all, it’s not information that wants to be free – it’s us.”