A truthful internet makes a trustworthy society. That’s what we firmly believe at WordProof, and as winners of Europe’s Blockchains for Social good contest earlier this year, I dare to say that our visions align: we need a better internet for all citizens. And Europe has a reputation for fighting for a better internet, hence GDPR. This article focuses on what policymakers could do to lead the way towards a ‘Trusted Web’. TLDR; there’s a massive opportunity for policymakers today!
Even though the internet has brought us many good things, it has a deep-rooted issue: trust. On the internet, citizens suffer fraud, manipulation, and theft on a daily basis. Policymakers can play a role in guiding the world towards a trustworthy internet. That’s what Europe tried to do with GDPR, and that’s what organizations like Europe’s NGI – Next Generation Internet – work on every day.
Will blockchain be the solution for a trustworthy internet?
Europe acknowledges that open-source blockchain technology can massively contribute to a better internet, hence this video they recently opened their Policy Summit with:
With blockchain timestamps, for the first time in history, it is possible to prove in an open-source way that you didn’t temper with information or documents. By developing a globally focused, highly standardized ecosystem around those timestamps, a fundamental change can be brought to the internet, which is exactly what we aim for at WordProof. With timestamping as a web standard, both policymakers and consumers can demand a trustworthy internet from big-tech and site owners.
What stakeholders are involved in building a trustworthy internet?
To achieve the ‘Trusted Web’, collaboration is needed between at least those four stakeholders:
- Site- and platform owners
- Big-tech platforms
Talking consumers, here’s a quote from a recent interview I did: “Consumers should demand transparency and a sender who takes accountability for its content. If information impacts your life, as a citizen you deserve the freedom to verify how information changed over time, and who the sender is. It is about integrity as a precondition, opposed to hoping that it exists.”.
Consumers demanding timestamps can be one argument for site and platform owners to start timestamping, but there’s more. It’s about multiple stakeholders working in tune. Big-tech platforms need to reward those who offer transparency and take accountability for their content: “Content discovery happens via big-tech. People consume news mainly through Facebook, Twitter, and Google. To make the internet trustworthy, you need to zoom in to just these three companies. All techniques and standards relevant to the adoption of timestamps are open-source, but mainly in control by those companies at the same time.” said Joost de Valk, founder of Yoast, a company focussed on Search Engine Optimization that currently runs on over 11.000.000 websites (16% of the web). The incentives for timestamping are aligned: content that’s transparent in how it changed over time AND has a sender who takes accountability is arguably a higher-quality result for the user of a search engine or social media platform.
When big-tech rewards sites that are transparent with higher rankings, it’s a no-brainer for site and platform owners to timestamp their valuable content from a business perspective. And although there are many other arguments for timestamping (read 10 Reasons to Timestamp Content or watch this presentation covering different use-cases), the true magic happens if big-tech and policymakers join forces.
Why are policymakers essential to reach a trustworthy internet?
‘Trusted Web’, the logical evolution of GDPR
“Europe can enforce preconditions for doing business with its citizens like they did with GDPR. Was Facebook a fan of GDPR? Probably not, but it came anyway, as it results in a better internet for citizens. Timestamping is a logical next step after GDPR. First, there was the internet without regulations, resulting in a law of the jungle situation. Then Europe introduced GDPR around 2012 and actively enforced it since 2018. The intention of GDPR is to offer European citizens more control over their data. The GDPR, luckily, got adopted rapidly outside Europe too.”
“The logical next step is timestamping. While the GDPR is about rights over your own data, timestamping is about the freedom to verify important information that you consume. If information impacts your life, as a citizen you deserve the freedom to verify how information changed over time, and who the sender is. It is about integrity as a precondition, opposed to hoping that it exists. To bringing this as a precondition to the internet, collaborating with policymakers matters!” is what I stated in the recent interview at Dutch Media Week.
Joost de Valk continued: “Europe has this massive group of consumers everyone wants to get in on. This is Europe’s chance to define the playing field: ‘If you want a piece of the action, these are the rules for venturing here’. That’s what we did with GDPR, and that’s how we expect Europe to enforce timestamping, leading to a Trusted Web. With regulation in place, adoption will go fast. This is Europe’s chance to take the lead to a better, trustworthy, more truthful internet.”
The beauty of GDPR is that it empowers citizens in controlling their data. That’s typically how Europe approaches a better internet. Empowering, as opposed to censoring or becoming internet police. Timestamping isn’t about policing the internet either. It is an open-source approach to anchor ‘this information existed at this specific moment in time’, and I can verify who the sender is.
As WordProof, we were invited to pitch our holistic Timestamp Ecosystem at Europe’s ‘Next Generation Internet’ Policy Summit:
Europe’s ‘Trusted Web’ Ecosystem
Through open-source timestamps, Europe can lead by example in using Blockchains for Social Good, ultimately leading to a trustworthy internet. At WordProof we’re actively involved in conversations with all stakeholders in building the ‘Trusted Web’.