Can Cryptos be a Replacement for Patreon Censorship?
There is a mass exodus going on over at Patreon. Average revenues on the platform have gone down by 50%. And it is all because Sargon of Akkad was expelled.
But an important lesson from the entire saga is that, in the digital world, without censorship-free money free speech is under continuous threat.
Before we get into the details of the debacle, here is a background.
For the most part the Internet has been around, the default method content creators and publishers have for making money online is hosting ads or, in some other way, marketing products and services for third party entities.
The result is that content creators put advertisers ahead of consumers. The readers of a blog, viewers a YouTube channel or listeners of a podcast are given only what pulls in advertisers and not what is possible to deliver.
In addition, consumers have to put up with ad related distractions including slowed web page loading and annoying popups. They also have to incur an extra cost from the data that ads consume on their devices.
Some studies have put the amount of data ads consume on mobiles at over 50% of what subscribers buy.
So there has always been a need for a different model.
The Making of Content Creator Beholden to Only the Consumer.
In May 2013, Jack Conte, a music artist, and Sam Yam, a serial entrepreneur, offered publishers and content creators an option to make money online but not from advertisers.
They provided a service that would make content creators beholden only to those who consume their content.
The service was Patreon, a platform through which content consumers subscribe and donate to creators they like on a regular basis. The platform takes a cut of 5% from that money.
The model has worked hugely fine. Some content creators have become so successful that they’ve build great brands and put together huge teams entirely on top of it.
But the party seems to be coming to an end.
The Weak Point That Has Been Ignored Until Now
But the problem only came to the focus of many in early December 2018 when the platform expelled the British YouTuber Carl Benjamin, who is popularly known as Sargon of Akkad.
The particular reason given for the action taken against him is that he used the N-word while debating others on another creator’s YouTube livestream.
And many have come to his defence in principle.
They include the so-called intellectual dark web members, in particular, neuroscientist and atheist writer Sam Harris, podcaster Dave Rubin, and clinical psychologist and author Jordan B. Peterson.
These three protested by cancelling their own Patreon memberships.
Aside from content creators, consumers who use the platform to donate have joined the protest by shutting down their own accounts.
And this is what has led to a cut of up to a 50% in revenues across the platform.
But How Exactly Do Cryptos Come In?
As Patreon conducted its purge, there are those who worked to create alternative platforms. This however has turned out to be something difficult to achieve in particular because payment service providers are not keen to supporting competitors to Patreon.
Some of the platforms banks and financial institutions have shut down by denying them payment processing services include MakerSupport, SubscribeStar and Hatreon.
It turns out PayPal in particular has an interest in Patreon given that its former president was among those who contributed the first investor funding for Patreon, which totalled close to US$15 million.
But the most interesting part of the saga came out when Patreon reached out to content creators to understand their concerns following the disquiet over the expulsion of Sargon of Akkad.
Jacqueline Hart, Patreon’s head of trust and safety, seemed to insinuate that the pressure to police speech was coming from the payment companies they use.
One YouTuber, Matt Christiansen, has quoted her stating “Payment processing is one of the core value propositions that we have. Payment processing depends on our ability to use the global payment network, and they have rules for what they will process.”
Taking that it is true that payment companies are putting pressure on Patreon to censor speech and are also blocking competition, then it is clear that free speech cannot be guaranteed by centralized payment methods.
In that case, those who want to create content and get funded by consumers without having to watch what they say wherever they speak might have to rely on peer-to-peer payment methods such as cryptocurrencies.
Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson have disclosed that they are working towards launching a competitor to Patreon but it is not clear how they are going to circumvent payment companies that have already shown a dislike for competition to Patreon.
If a competitor to Patreon is going to come up and succeed, then it has to avoid relying on traditional payment options. It has to use other forms of payment, in particular, decentralized payment options such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
That is the only way to guarantee that all ideas have fair opportunity to be challenged at the marketplace of ideas.
As to whether there is a ready market out there for such a platform, you just have to listen to disgruntled Patreon users to realize that there is an unmet need.
So, the free speech movement has a need that cryptocurrencies can adequately meet. On the other hand, cryptocurrencies are looking at a huge opportunity. They could possibly ride on the free speech movement to become indispensable.
DisclaimerThe writer’s views are expressed as a personal opinion and are for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.
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