Asking whether social news platform Voice can shout down Facebook in a fight for people’s attention and trust is beyond a David and Goliath matchup. But then, so are many other blockchain companies looking to disrupt industries as varied as finance and farming.
Voice had a soft launch in February, but it really declared its challenge on March 26, when it announced that parent company Block.one had spun it off with a $150 million investment. Now independently operated, Voice’s funding has been earmarked for expanding its operations and boosting its workforce.
It’s billed as a “social news platform that rewards users and content creators,” and has the rather ambitious goal of tackling deficiencies in the media industry—namely the proliferation of fake news and concerns over data ownership.
Voice was conceived by Block.one CEO Brendan Blumer and Voice chief technical officer Dan Larimer, who created business development and financial management platform BitShares before co-founding the Steem. That’s a decentralized media and blogging site that was floundering even before Tron CEO Justin Sun bought it, also in February. He promptly alienated a large chunk of the Steem community, which reacted by forking the blockchain to create a Sun-free Steem clone called Hive.
Shouting down Facebook
Blumer said Voice is setting out to “fundamentally change how media platforms are working”—and to create “living journalism instead of static news platforms.”
It is worth noting that this isn’t the first time that blockchain has tried to sneak in journalism’s stage door. Civil arrived on the scene to much fanfare in 2018, promising to disrupt the business of delivering high-quality, independent journalism.
The platform had been promising to pay a large proportion of its journalists’ salaries in CVL, a specially created token. It was also designed to reward readers. Alas, the cryptocurrency failed to gain traction, and now trades for fractions of a cent.
But Voice is aiming more at Facebook than at the New York Times.
Salah Zalatimo, Voice’s CEO, said the funding comes at a time of “profound loss of trust on social media sites.” Many networks are coming under attack for their “opaque” use of personal data and “capricious” content regulation rules, he noted, not-so subtly calling out Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. The social media giant has seen its own cryptocurrency project, the Libra stablecoin, falter under the weight of the mistrust and dislike Facebook has earned.
A former chief digital officer at Forbes, Zalatimo brings plenty of experience to the table.
“If you need to hire armies of people to remove disturbing content, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the platform,” Zalatimo added. “Voice wants to bridge divisions and rebuild trust in our media platforms by promoting authenticity, transparency and humanity in our community.”
Show me the money
Voice launched the first iteration of its platform on Valentine’s Day—and to begin with, it’s only going to be available in the U.S. Its quest to battle fake news will be a tall order in the age of coronavirus, anti-vaxxers, and deep fakes.
The company’s infrastructure has been built on Block.one’s EOSIO protocol. Users who contribute on Voice have the opportunity to earn crypto tokens if their posts gain traction.