We were inspired by the findings of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found that 60% of Americans don’t trust Facebook to protect their personal information, and 82% of respondents said that social media sites do more to waste people’s time than use it well.
Inspired by these stats, we explored ways that social media could be designed to make more efficient use of people’s time, and also increase trustworthiness around personal data usage. We read into the effects of filter bubbles on Facebook, enforced by an opaque algorithm with zero controls given to the user to construct the composition of their social feeds. The more siloed a user, the more profitable they are; the erosion of diversity and the polarisation of societies on partisan lines are good for Facebook’s bottom dollar, so algorithms are imposed in accordance with this profit maxim, knowingly to the detriment of social cohesion in our societies. We knew to solve this we needed to design controls that give every day social media users control over their own algorithm, over their own information supply, and algorithm controls that positively encourage diverse information consumption. Our cofounder Dr Sophie Payne has a PhD in neuroscience and was motivated to design these controls specifically to encourage greater diversity on our social media feeds. That’s how we came up with the first part of our submission ‘Control Your Algorithm’ which we’re submitting under the Human Centric Design Category. The algorithm controls we have designed are tools users can control to reclaim conscious use of social media. Providing a portal for users to schedule the content they consume is the starting point for opening a conversation around digital identity and the types of people we want to be online. That’s what ‘Control Your Algorithm’ is for.
The second part of our submission is about solving social media’s privacy problem. We have spent the last 3 years reporting on the devastating privacy violations of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook on Sky News in the UK -> See the 5 most important TV appearances on privacy rights, Facebook and fake news here
Privacy rights are human rights. That’s why we designed the DataLake. To solve the privacy problem on social media we read into the privacy preserving features of decentralised technology and found a Decentralised Ledger Technology, Hedera Hashgraph, that could support a social network that was private by design, and that could support a privacy friendly targeted ad system, one that provides a profitable alternative to Facebook’s Real Time Bidding (RTB) model, described by privacy activist Max Schrems as the largest data breach in history. The second part of our submission, under the Ownership of Data category, is therefore the Joyn DataLake. The Joyn DataLake is a decentralised wallet built on Hedera DLT, that provides a portal for informed and explicit consent for personal data usage for users of Joyn Social Media. We want to give citizens control of their privacy; the Joyn DataLake within Joyn Social Media is the interface through which empower citizens to do that.
Finally, via the Joyn DataLake wallets, we are able to redistribute 25% of our ad revenue directly to the user as they consume ads, rewarding them for the value of their data in Joyn Tokens, Joyn Social Media's native cryptocurrency. Users can also buy Joyn Tokens using fiat cash via the wallets we have created. Joyn Tokens can be used to unlock content from journalists, social influencers, and distributed to social causes on Joyn Social Media. This content monetisation system means social influencers can make 20-40x more via direct monetisation of content on Joyn Social Media than on Facebook ($100k-200k for 1 million unlocks, as opposed to $5k for 1 million views on Facebook.). This ‘Crypto Content & Causes Ecosystem’ is the third part of our submission under the category ‘New Capitalism’ and is what we believe can lead to the mass organic migration of social influencers from facebook to Joyn when we launch.
What it does
We have built 2 things. Firstly, a ‘custom algorithm’ feature for the Joyn social media feed. This allows users to take control of the composition of their Joyn feed by adjusting the proportion of posts from different types of account. For example, users can specify that they want their feed to contain 50% posts from news and politics accounts, 10% from influencer accounts, and so on. Typical social media apps such as Facebook don’t give users any explicit control over the composition of their feeds, because they are designed to be as attention grabbing as possible, and keep users scrolling for as long as possible. We have designed feed controls to allow users to make conscious decisions about their social media usage.
Secondly, we have built a user profile and ‘wallet’ on the Hedera Hashgraph ledger that can hold a social media user’s personal information securely, and also send and receive Joyn Tokens, the native cryptocurrency for Joyn. Users are also able to specify their preferences for the ads that they see on their Joyn feed. This user wallet is critical for the business model that we envision for Joyn Social Media. We serve users privacy protecting ads, and we redistribute a portion of our ad revenue to users in Joyn Tokens. Uses can then spend their Joyn Tokens supporting causes such as charities, or supporting content creators on Joyn (like a Patreon model).
How we built it
Sanchit Pandey built ‘Control Your Algorithm’. Sophie Payne designed the UI and created the prototype which you can view here.
Challenges we ran into
It was difficult aligning smart contract generation with an easy to understand privacy preference logic for users. We iterated 3 times until the UX made sense.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Functioning algorithm controls and functioning smart contracts with live crypto wallets on Hedera Hashgraph.
What we learned
That the algorithm controls are potentially the highest impact feature we can deliver in comparison to current social networks.
What's next for Joyn Social Media
Short term: Developing our fact-checking features and our human-centric content curation and discovery features
We’re seeking $600k investment to launch a 50k user beta test. We have applied to Betaworks Ventures Fix the Internet Accelerator, and hope to move to New York if accepted!