Here at finance.vote, we build unstoppable applications. That is, we use blockchain and other Web3 technologies to build applications that can live autonomously on the internet in a decentralised fashion. In this post we make the case for why more unstoppable applications are needed in the context of rising censorship and centralised intervention of the public discourse, especially in financial systems.
A new age of censorship
In recent months we’ve seen a new wave of censorship hitting the legacy web. There is real evidence that censorship is growing in scale and scope and it is most certainly something we should be increasingly vigilant of.
The phenomenon of deplatforming has been discussed for a while, but it hit its most public peak possible this month when Donald Trump’s Twitter account was permanently suspended.
This represented a significant shift in the tone of internet social media moderation, which has historically been focussed on relatively minor figures, obvious bot accounts, or overt hate speech. But this was something different.
At the time, Donald Trump was arguably still (just about) the most powerful and well known man on the planet, but clearly not powerful enough to withstand a deplatforming from Twitter.
Whether or not, this was the right thing to do is a matter of debate, but Trump, for good, or ill, was part of the global discourse and his narrative was removed from it.
This was a stark reminder that Twitter and global social media networks are not a public commons, but private entities that we’re invited into. When we’re good productive workers, we’re promoted to spend as much time on the platforms as possible, when we’re not, it’s exile to the digital wilderness (that’s Telegram and Signal btw — welcome to the crypto dungeons).
Shortly after, the social media network Parler (the next most likely home for Trump’s antics) was given a seemingly coordinated eviction notice by Google and Apple from their app stores. An obvious blow to the network.
But it was still accessible, to those who had already downloaded the app, or to people who were using their web app instance. That is, until Amazon took them down completely by taking away their servers. This is not only the removal of an individual narrative from the public discourse, but a whole network’s.
This is a bit more alarming, around a third of the internet, if not more, lives on AWS servers, which becomes very obvious when there’s an outage.
When infrastructure takes you down it can take a lot of people with it. In this case, around 10 million people were deplatformed in a single wave of centralised intervention.
And now, a new kind of censorship.
The recent collectivised market “manipulation” from the r/wallstreetbets subreddit of the GameStop share price, has been the biggest story of the week.
For a while, the “stonks” bros over at trading venue Robinhood have been slowly realising their collective power over the markets.
Back in May, they managed to pump the stock of Hertz nearly 700% the week after the car rental company was declared bankrupt amidst the decimation of its business following the global pandemic.
It’s also probably the case they are responsible for memeing Elon Musk to being the richest man in the world.
This week, the WSB guys found a new target: hedge funds.
Targeting short selling hedge whales, our intrepid stonks bros coordinated a “short squeeze” on Melvin Capital Management, who were trying to take their free money off another pandemic hit company; GameStop.
So successful was this pump, that Melvin and co, lost somewhere around $5 billion dollars in a matter of days.
So far, so, power to the people.
But then, obvious illuminati contenders “Citadel Securities,” (who’ve managed to make $6.7 Billon in a year when most of the world has had their livelihoods destroyed), pushed a few billy over to Melvin, just in time for Robinhood to “intervene” and literally switch off the buy button on their platform and presumably realising the hedgies short positions and winning a good chunk of their lost money back.
Since then, a whole load of other meme worthy stonks have been switched off. Just in case the market decides to buy them and put more short positions in jeopardy and the platforms used by the WSB communities have censored them completely, including the previous darlings of the cryptospace Discord (although it appears they’re back tracking on this one).
It’s also worth noting that Robinhood’s business model is to sell “order flow” to market makers, something they neglected to tell their customers and for which they got a hefty fine. There’s of course nothing generally wrong with market making, but here they got caught not providing “best execution,” which means that those buying this order flow, were in the business of front running Robinhood’s customers. Although it’s looking likely that Citadel are not owners of Robinhood as some had claimed, they are their biggest customers.
And there’s a reason for that, Robinhood investors are considered “dumb money” and therefore their order flow is more profitable because they’re more likely to miss-price assets.
Only, this time their “miss-pricing of assets” went against them and then they changed the game and censored their trades.
Enter Unstoppable Applications
In all of these cases, the centralised parties that control the “medium” on which people communicate, stepped in to censor activity that fell outside of what they considered “just”.
The issue with this is, that what is “just” is not best determined by centralised power. This is why Jury’s are intended to be a random selection of everyday people.
When the vanishingly small number of people who control the internet become judge, jury and executioner, things have a very real potential to go very wrong and it won’t be long before you find yourself being censored and have no idea why.
Fortunately, there is a counterbalancing force to this new wave of centralised censorship.
The Unstoppable Application Tech Stack
Blockchains are essentially distributed databases and we use the Ethereum blockchain, as our primary database. To all intents and purposes this means we have no database, because the Ethereum blockchain is a public commons and not something we control. We couldn’t change it if we wanted to, and we certainly couldn’t stop anyone else from interacting with it. It is permissionless.
Blockchains are designed with the presumption that they are being attacked at all times and they incentivise stakeholders to erect a cryptoeconomic firewall that limits the ability of anyone to alter their history.
Blockchains sacrifice performance to be unstoppable and are the backbone on which all unstoppable financial applications will exist in the future.
Smart contracts mean that you can do fancier things with a blockchain than just alter a, “who owns what” ledger.
Smart contracts mean you don’t just have money, you have programmable money.
We use a network of smart contracts that allow users to vote (quadratically), generate a transferable identity, form a reputation, predict market outcomes, get incentivised to provide liquidity, and a whole bunch of other stuff in the future.
IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) falls into a suite of technologies known as distributed file systems, which includes the well known Bittorrent network and other peer to peer file sharing systems. Their key properties being that, rather than using a centralised server architecture, files are distributed across nodes in a network.
These systems are designed to provide users with a number of advantages over the use of centralised systems such as the use of AWS, which includes greater censorship resistance, redundancy, verifiable content integrity and immutability.
These features sometimes earn the tag “permaweb” since links to content disseminate through the network and once a sufficient critical mass is achieved the content remains accessible for as long as a single node stores it. This means if someone orders us to take down the site, we couldn’t even if we wanted to.
We use IPFS to host our pretty front end application interfaces, but even if this somehow goes down, users can still directly interact with the smart contract, which can never be taken down.
The other big attack vector is namespace. As privacy preserving applications like Signal have run into, it’s possible to be censored by removing the ability to resolve the name at the ISP level.
Ethereum Name Space, means that our name resolution is done in a decentralised way, turning a big garbley IPFS hash (e.g. https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmRyYcivPhmVD1PVqQnigL9Xu9ZWJzHiRt36V74DW63aeD), into a human readable domain name that is actually a transferable NFT (non-fungible token) which is controlled by an Ethereum address.
Our utility and governance token $FVT, is the means by which identities are bought and which power and influence in our network will be mediated. It is the entrance portal to our system and allows the process of decentralisation to occur progressively over time.
No one can ever turn the buy button off this, because our market is a smart contract delivered by the uniswap protocol. In fact, we’re about to launch a solution for the generation of perma-liquidity, meaning $FVT will be tradable, whatever happens, forever.
The next big wave of decentralisation will be driven by the ability for users to take over the functioning of networks entirely. At the same time Robinhood were taking financial freedom away from their customers, DeFi application yearn.finance was putting the future of yearn ecosystem into the hands of it’s token holders by letting them determine the networks monetary policy by token weighted voting.
We aren’t quite decentralised robinhood (yet), but the trading venues of the future will be run by the participants that trade on them and the key to that is voting technology.
In the future, unstoppable applications like ours won’t be just created by launch teams they will be created, launched, maintained and curated by their users through credibly neutral decentralised governance and we intend to provide the unstoppable tool kit to do it.
Censorship isn’t going away, in fact the internet will trend to becoming more balkanised, more restricted, more contested and more centralised. The only hope we have for retaining freedom of digital expression is by continuing our migration from the dying Web2.0.
The internet is undergoing an upgrade and with it, so is the legacy financial system. The new web is censorship resistant, private, with it’s own money and decentralised financial systems that are increasingly being run by its users.
Don’t wait around for the old financial system to die, join the new one as it is beginning.
Join the finance.vote revolution:
Markets (unstoppable app): https://financedotvote.eth.link
Crypto dungeon (Telegram): https://t.me/financedotvote
Purchase $FVT (Uniswap): https://info.uniswap.org/pair/0x75001b3ffe0f77864c7dc64c55e1e22b205e4a07