Why Web3 social media platforms and cryptocurrencies have the potential to finally curb political divisiveness in America.
Article Written by Aaron Rafferty
At a time when Americans are more polarized than ever, the strength of our democracy depends on fostering constructive political debates. The next-generation of social media platforms and cryptocurrencies called "Web3" have the potential to break down ideological bubbles, promote grassroots decision-making, and bring people of different backgrounds together. In addition, Web3 political platforms such as BattlePACs promote civil public discourse, teach valuable communication skills, and nurture citizens’ participation in democracy.
The Exploitation of Web2
Today, most Americans live, work, and play in a Web2 world, which is made up of large-scale social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Instagram. These platforms grow or shrink according to users’ engagement within their networks. Yet, they do not recognize the value members provide through participation and community growth. Instead, they turn users themselves into the product, monitoring their behavior and selling their data to third parties. Sometimes, those third parties are even foreign adversaries.
Web2 social-media sites constitute a particularly serious threat when it comes to politics. These platforms have been shown to steer users toward content that confirms their preconceptions, even if these beliefs are actually misconceptions.
According to the Center for Information Technology and Society at the University of California Santa Barbara, “Social media platforms actually benefit commercially from fake news, since these sensationalized stories increase engagement on their sites, shares, and likes. Social media websites inherently support and expand the reach of misinformation.” Consequently, particularly susceptible groups come to be fed a steady diet of misinformation and lies.
In addition to seeking greater engagement, Web2 social media platforms also have a financial incentive to amplify outrage and provoke conflict. As a result, researchers at the Brookings Institution and New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights have found that social media platforms “intensify divisiveness” and spread “partisan hostility” toward opponents, thereby contributing to increased polarization.
The Web3 Mindset
A transformative mindset has accompanied the rise of Web3 technology — offering a cure for Web2’s exploitative, antagonistic system, and with it, new hope for democracy.
As The New York Times explains, the idea behind Web3 is “a new kind of internet service that is built using decentralized blockchains — the shared ledger systems used by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether.”
Web3 technology enables grassroots communities that promote values like immutability, transparency, and autonomy. Moreover, these networks are designed to permit ordinary people to build communities together.
Unlike the social media platforms of Web2, such grassroots organizing in Web3 is recognized and valued. Users become creators and owners themselves, rather than products to be peddled to others.
Many institutions — including the core ones underpinning our democracy — could benefit from the adoption of this new mindset. For instance, Web3 offers solutions that would enable more secure voting and participation in elections.
How Web3 Can Change Politics
For example, the nation of Estonia in Europe has already implemented a remote voting system using blockchain for national elections, as well as other critical services such as healthcare and banking.
According to the Estonian government, more than 46 percent of the population has adopted electronic voting, which has safeguarded Estonian voters against fraud and other manipulation. The government estimates that its digital society “saves over 1,400 years of working time annually” while creating “a hassle-free environment for business and entrepreneurship.”
Given the benefits, other countries, including the United States, should become more willing to incorporate Web3 solutions. Since blockchain provides a verifiably and demonstrably transparent record that is fraud and tamper-resistant, elections based on this technology offer a more secure and trustworthy process.
The outcomes from this new election methodology could hold more legitimacy in the eyes of citizens than paper-based, or otherwise outdated, voting machine systems from the previous century.
Web3 makes other advances possible as well, such as providing more transparency and accountability over public decision-making and spending. Within a decentralized, connected network, communities would gain more freedom to govern themselves semi-autonomously — but that’s not all. Web3 can also revolutionize the way citizens engage each other in political conversations.
Revolutionizing Political Discourse
Today’s political debates often constitute mean-spirited fights full of fallacious reasoning rather than constructive arguments about the most advantageous policies for our nation’s future. All too often, people from other ideological backgrounds are painted as the enemy. Meanwhile, those who do not connect with one of the two major parties and identify as independent, can feel left out of public conversations entirely.
BattlePACs, a Web3 social network that utilizes blockchain, aims to change these toxic dynamics by building a community of engaged citizens. The platform incentivizes prosocial behavior, rewarding users for engaging in constructive civil discourse, making positive contributions to dialogue, and demonstrating good behavior such as seeking bipartisan solutions and agreement.
Toward this end, all users must affirm that they are U.S. citizens and sign a BattlePACs pledge affirming their agreement to uphold better standards for political debate. For instance, the pledge’s provisions require participants to uphold the Constitution, place country before party, and to recognize that all people are created equal.
As participation in BattlePACs grows, more and more Americans will discover and learn new ways of engaging with people who don’t already agree with them. This will puncture ideological bubbles and banish stereotypes about people from other backgrounds. It will also build citizens’ argumentation and listening skills, which can then be employed offline to good effect.
Perhaps more importantly, BattlePACs will make the typically boring work of democracy fun, and spark engagement on political issues. This engagement has the potential to boost voting rates, further strengthening our democracy.
Web3 Core Values Are American Values
In this age with large numbers of citizens still questioning the legitimacy of election results, and a handful of people who have even resorted to violence to make their distrust widely known, we must consider better alternatives to our current election systems.
By enabling trustworthy election technology and other governance processes, in addition to social media platforms for constructive political discourse, Web3 presents solutions for much of what ails us today.
In short, Web3 technology aligns with the fundamental values upon which the United States was originally founded. It's time we step up and consider making the change.
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Aaron Rafferty is a contributing writer for The Gen Z Post. He is the CEO of BattlePacs and Co-Founder of StandardDAO. Aaron has been in the blockchain space for more than six years — specializing in understanding the underlying technologies and blockchain-based community organization models.