We’re all tired of hearing about Cambridge Analytica by now. And we’re basically used to the fact that whatever we do online, we’re leaving a digital footprint. Even the famed anonymity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has crumbled in the light of day. So when we hear talk of “internet freedom,” we can be forgiven for feeling skeptical.
But that’s the idea behind Minds, an open source, decentralized social network. In fact, according to co-founder Bill Ottman, Minds was “built on a foundation of democracy, transparency, privacy, and internet freedom.” A noble idea. But can it really deliver the freedom of speech that so many people crave?
Challenging Traditional Social Networks
“It was clear that top proprietary social networks were plagued with unwanted surveillance, algorithm manipulation and censorship. Their business models were centralized, extractive and designed to exploit users. Minds was created to rectify these issues by providing real privacy, freedom of speech, and transparency.”
Launched in 2015 and with over 200 million users, it seems the word has already gotten out. And the recent backlash against Facebook for its data breaches and willful abuse of user trust will surely spur more people to seek more private social networks.
Not only does Minds allow anyone with an email address and the will to sign up, but it also incentivizes users to add content. Ottman explains, “Minds rewards users for their contributions to the network with crypto tokens, which can be exchanged for promoted views or exclusive rewards from other channels.”
That sounds faintly familiar. Perhaps because there are scores of blockchain companies zeroing in on the value of consumer data right now. So, what sets Minds apart?
Powered by Users
“Minds is powered and run by our users, not by unknown algorithms,” Ottman explains. “We have a unique reward system that allows our top contributors to earn tokens and gain more views on the network using our Boost ad system, or support other channels with our Wire P2P payments.”
But if centralization is the main problem we face, what about the owners of Minds? How do we know they’re not secretly reading our minds and syphoning off the information to some British consultancy firm?
“Our code is 100% free and open source, which enables rigorous peer review and inspection. We also allow for anonymity and do not require any personally identifiable information upon signup, giving the user total control over what personal information they wish to provide (if any).”
A Collection of Bright Minds
Says Ottman, “Our community consists of a wide variety of users, including artists, musicians, journalists, writers, activists, comedians, politicians, photographers, scholars and more. We have put a lot of energy into attracting people from all across the political spectrum in order to create a platform for healthy discourse and thought leadership.”
Indeed. Take a stroll through the social platform and you’ll notice a refreshing lack of censorship. But how does Minds ensure the safety of data as well as the safety of cryptocurrency, if they don’t practice KYC or ask for any information?
“We are leveraging the Ethereum blockchain with a hybrid OnChain/OffChain system for our token. We are currently performing extensive audits and penetration testing to ensure that our smart contracts are fully secure. Minds aims to create a platform that genuinely gives users control of their personal data and online experience.”
It all sounds very Utopian, but one has to ask, what happens when the wrong minds get on Minds and try to influence its users? What if terrorists and criminals wanted to spread hateful rhetoric, and talk of child trafficking and porn went unchecked? Is that when democracy becomes anarchy, or is the platform inevitably controlled? Will Minds really be exempt from governing bodies and regulation?
Probably not. “The prospect of increased regulation and/or internet censorship may create access challenges to our users and service offerings,” the network states.
But, of course. Is anyone really able to offer freedom of speech in this surveillance era? Unlikely. But you have to admire them for trying. And for now, at least, Minds certainly offers an alternative to content manipulation and corporate influence.