Is Hive censorship-resistant?
Direct from the desk of Dane Williams.
Yes, Hive is censorship-resistant - A look at the censorship-resistant properties of the blockchain.
There’s no doubt that the concept of censorship-resistance on Hive is one of - if not the - outright biggest selling point of our blockchain.
It is however, a point that is too often misunderstood and therefore misrepresented by even many of us here using the network day to day.
With the idea of creating an evergreen reference point for the future, let's dive right into the meat of this post that answers all the common questions surrounding the censorship-resistant properties of Hive.
Is Hive censorship-resistant?
The short answer is yes, Hive is censorship-resistant.
In saying that however, it's extremely important to understand that it's only the underlying, decentralised blockchain that is censorship-resistant.
The front-ends that display the blockchain's content on the other hand, are nothing more than centralised businesses like any other, that can and do choose to display things however their owners damn well see fit.
Front-ends do nothing more than read and interpret the underlying blockchain's data in the way the centrally hosted website tells it to.
As such, the website owner can make calls on what is shown or not shown at any time, using whatever set of rules they choose.
That's right, front-ends can 'censor' you on THEIR front-end.
Don't like it?
Well you can always publish to the blockchain using your account and view that content on one of the many alternative front-ends that choose to display content from the Hive blockchain in a plethora of different ways.
Or if it's still not to your liking, you can even build and host your own!
It’s all right there on the blockchain.
The ball is in your court as to how it is displayed.
Is downvoting to remove HIVE rewards censorship?
So now that we know that front-ends, are nothing more than private businesses, let's talk about downvotes.
No, downvoting to remove rewards is NOT censorship.
It sucks to see rewards at zero, but once again the decentralised Hive blockchain means no matter how many downvotes you get, nobody can take away your ability to publish to the blockchain itself.
While many do, it's entirely up to the front-end's owner whether they implement a mechanism to not display content that has been 'downvoted'.
Like by adhering to the hive watchers blacklist for example.
But the blockchain removing and redistributing rewards on any piece of content is still not censorship.
With the keys to your account, you are free to use a different front-end that uses whatever alternative content display mechanism that is more your liking.
Or build your own.
I have always wondered why there isn't a pirate front-end that simply displays everything that is downvoted to zero.
And 'censors' all of the stuff with positive rewards.
Wouldn't that be something!
Now, let's dig a little deeper into what downvotes on Hive really are.
What is the role of downvotes on Hive
In order to explain the role of downvotes, we have to explain the role of the HIVE token itself.
Remember the other day when we talked about what gives the HIVE token value?
That the value of HIVE comes from the fact staked HIVE (HP) allows you the ability to transact and influence governance on a truly censorship-resistant network.
The HIVE token will always have value as long as HP gives you the ability to operate on this immutable network.
In order to give the best chance of spreading Hive's governance token as far and wide as possible, it employs a stake-weighted voting system on content to distribute inflation via a rewards pool.
Users are able to upvote (and downvote) content to spread the token's inflation and secure the network by encouraging new stakeholders.
To the blockchain, that is all a vote in either direction is.
It is front-ends that apply their own sets of rules around what's considered to be 'valuable content', plagiarism and the like.
These front-end imposed social guidelines if you will, not only ensure the front-end's owner is legally compliant in their jurisdiction, but increase the quality of content they display.
Funnily enough, while this ultimately helps spread the HIVE governance token because it encourages a wider audience of new readers to come back, the blockchain itself still doesn't care about the makeup of your content.
And certainly not the rewards that were up or downvoted.
What about the argument of functional censorship on Hive?
The concept of functional censorship on Hive is an interesting one.
It’s up to each front-end to individually choose whether to adhere to blacklists for example, but as I mentioned above, most choose to.
Especially the more popular front-ends like PeakD and Ecency.
So while front-ends blocking content is not technically censorship because its still on the blockchain, an argument can be made that for all intensive purposes, you're functionally censored.
If 99% of people read Hive based content via PeakD and Ecency which implement the same content display mechanism and user blacklist, then isn't that all that matters?
My reply is, this is where we get mixed up in an ideological debate around Hive.
People expect all things Hive to be this bastion of censorship-resistance at all costs.
But I repeat that front-ends are nothing more than private businesses like any other, with responsibilities to the jurisdictions they are based within.
It's not the responsibility of Hive's front-ends, no matter how popular they are, to offer a free, open platform for discussion if they don't want to.
Again, anybody is free to build a front-end that displays downvoted content in a different way if they want to!
In a way, a system of functional censorship does exist right now on Hive due to the popularity of PeakD and Ecency.
But with an alternate way to always publish to the blockchain and display that content one way or the other, it's not actually censorship.
More of an inconvenience.
And it's at this point of an inconvenience where I want to wrap things up.
When you drill down into when people are crying about being censored, it’s actually not their ability to publish content that they care about at all.
All they really care about is their ability to earn a slice of the Hive blockchain's reward pool.
With the major front-ends having an active user stranglehold on Hive content that drives the most eyeballs - and therefore upvotes - to content, functional censorship certainly matters in this regard.
But as this post has explained, the reward pool is nothing more than a way to distribute the blockchain's governance token and has nothing to do with the actual content itself.
So I repeat, this is NOT censorship.
Final thoughts on Hive's censorship-resistance
The bottom line is that Hive is extremely censorship-resistant and affords Web3 Hive account holders a level of freedom of speech that no other platform can technically provide beyond a promise.
Hive's layered system is tremendously effective at offering users technical censorship-resistance, while affording front-ends the ability to filter socially unacceptable/illegal content from their centrally hosted servers as they see fit.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
All roads lead to Hive.
Best of probabilities to you.
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