- President Trump was fact-checked by Twitter after claiming mail-in voting methods will be fraudulent.
- The President then tweeted that Twitter was “interfering” in the 2020 election and “stifling” free speech.
- Vitalik Buterin wrote on Twitter that clashes like these between politicians and big tech are exactly why we need alternatives.
The crypto community weighed into the social media censorship debate on Wednesday after President Donald Trump was fact-checked on Twitter.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin retweeted President Trump’s comment about Twitter “stifling” free speech, writing, “In the long run I'm pessimistic about the ability of centralized social media platforms to stay highly independent of the political environment of the country they're centered in.”
He added: “This only further shows why we need an alternative.”
In the long run I'm pessimistic about the ability of centralized social media platforms to stay highly independent of the political environment of the country they're centered in.
This only further shows why we need an alternative. https://t.co/w3HZbj3S7s
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) May 27, 2020
But Buterin said that he didn’t think Twitter was censoring Trump—rather that he was worried “about selective outrage being used to threaten Twitter's independence.”
“Putting a warning label beside potentially dangerous content is like, exactly the thing that libertarians actively promote as an alternative to outright banning it.” he wrote. “So I'm definitely not going to criticize twitter for experimenting with such things.”
Buterin’s tweet comes after President Trump said Tuesday that ballots received through mail-in voting methods would be “anything less than substantially fraudulent.” The president wrote on Twitter that mail boxes “will be robbed, ballots will be forged and even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed” in November’s Presidential election.
Twitter then posted a label under the tweet, offering facts about mail-in ballots—hinting that what President Trump had said was misleading.
Trump responded by writing that Twitter was “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and “completely stifling free speech.”
The big tech censorship debate has become more heated recently as YouTube removed comments which criticize China’s Communist Party and Google deleted millions of negative TikTok reviews after the app's ratings fell to an all-time low.
Buterin’s call for “alternatives” comes at a time when decentralized platforms are gaining in popularity. Gab—a “free speech social network” that wants to rival Twitter—recently decentralized its network, and has grown in users. But the platform has been criticized for allowing anyone, even white nationalists and the alt-right, to speak freely.
Gab today responded to President Trump, telling him to “Get on Gab and speak freely” after he wrote that he would take action against Twitter.
Get on https://t.co/J3RftnOEqv and speak freely. pic.twitter.com/rzdEKEbLou
— Gab.com Speak Freely (@getongab) May 27, 2020
Meanwhile, crypto-based social media platform Minds is also reportedly growing its user base, particularly in Thailand. The company’s CEO, Bill Ottman, told Decrypt that it is difficult for big tech to avoid bias.
“In terms of 'fact-checking' warnings, the approach of most big tech has been to hand select orgs and mainstream media to do this job, which is clearly subject to bias,” he wrote in an email.
“It doesn't leverage at all the massive community of experts on both the left and right that they have.”
According to Ottman, the issue extends beyond just Twitter, and finding a solution may come down to a fundamental shift in the way users interact with content-creation platforms.
“The other day, YouTube apologized for censoring anti-Chinese communist party comments due to unintelligent filters,” said Ottman. “If the largest tech companies in the world are this inept, perhaps it should be obvious the whole strategy of dictating truth and acceptable discourse is off base."