Would the world be better off if it were impossible to ban or censor Twitter?
The power of communication that Twitter allows has facilitated rebellions around the world, and more than a few times, the service has been shut down or censored by those in power. The so-called “Green Revolution” in Iran in 2009 brought the use of Twitter to the fore. Young Iranians were communicating, reporting and promoting protests via Twitter, and it was working. Then, Iran pulled the plug on the microblogging service and it’s never put the plug back in. Last year in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned Twitter. The ban was met with outrage and didn’t last two weeks.
The new blockchain platform Ethereum opens up possibilities for a lot of sectors of society. Its ability to execute smart contracts has drawn the attention of international banks UBS and Rabobank, according to a report this week in the International Business Times. Its construction as a distributed network means that no government or central authority could turn it off.
And this is where Tweether comes in.
Tweether is a programming experiment by Stefan George, who works with the Williamsburg-based Ethereum app-building studio ConsenSys.
What George has done is build a proof-of-concept, functional application modeled on Twitter, but built on Ethereum. You can tweet and have a profile picture, though the design is still rudimentary.
“I think that history has shown that, especially in countries where freedom of speech is very needed, they don’t want people to use those tools,” George said by phone from Berlin last weekend. “It’s essential for the progress of societies to communicate. With the refugee crisis in Europe, if you see just one picture of this dead child, this took so much traction on the media and in Twitter, it really changed the mind of so many people in Germany and the U.K.”
George demonstrated Tweether at a recent Ethereum hackathon sponsored by ConsenSys in Bushwick. He’s also working on an Ethereum-based prediction market, and has high hopes for the platform.
“What I hope is that people won’t really recognize that they are using Ethereum anymore, that it becomes that essential and easy to use,” he said. “I think it could lower the costs for many services. You could see people running Uber on Ethereum and you wouldn’t have to pay for the service anymore. I think this is a huge thing. We’re at the very beginning and it’s not very usable, but we’re building the tools to use it.”