An Irish-American billionaire says he has a €100 million plan to free the internet by building a blockchain-based alternative to Facebook
Frank McCourt, a real estate mogul and former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, says he is willing to pour $100 million to rebuild the foundations of social media, because he says Facebook and other platforms have amassed too much power.
“I never thought I would be questioning the security of our underlying systems, namely democracy and capitalism,” McCourt said. “We live under constant surveillance, and what’s happening with this massive accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of a few, that’s incredibly destabilizing. It threatens capitalism because capitalism needs to have some form of fairness in it in order to survive.”
The billionaire has named his effort Project Liberty, and proposes to use blockchain to construct a new internet infrastructure called the Decentralized Social Networking Protocol (DSNP).
Cryptocurrencies use blockchain to safely store information about the digital tokens in consumers digital wallets – the new DSNP would provide a similar service for social networks, by constructing a database – accessible to users – of people’s social connections. This would allow users to move their records between social media services instead of being locked into a few dominant platforms, Bloomberg reports.
If all social media companies were obliged to draw from a common social database, the proposal posits, the chance of any single company becoming so dominant would become very unlikely. This would mean that Facebook would no longer own the data about the social connections between its users – something that currently gives the platform enormous advantage over competitors.
Braxton Woodham, the co-founder of the meal delivery service Sun Basket and former chief technology officer of Fandango, the movie ticket website, has been hired to build the protocol, Bloomberg says.
McCourt also believes that recent history has underscored the dysfunction of the current social media system. What do social media users really have to lose? “Look at the cesspool that’s been created,” he said. “Look at the reality that the internet has become.”