Well before talk of crypto-powered Web3, the vision for an alternative, surveillance-free internet hinged on the success of the so-called dark web, a popular name for web content that exists on overlay networks that use the Internet but require specific software, configurations, or authorization to access. Through the dark web, private computer networks can communicate and conduct business anonymously without divulging identifying information, such as a user’s location.
The point was to empower communication free of the watchful surveillance eye of governments and corporations, and to that end it worked. The problem, however, is it quickly became hijacked by criminals and terrorists. The most popular dark web network, Tor, is filled with child sexual exploitation imagery, arms dealers, human trafficking, and drugs. Regardless of where you fall on the free-speech spectrum, we can all agree much of the content on the dark web is more of a bug than a feature that should remain.
Until now, cryptocurrency has been used only as the currency by which to exchange goods and services on the dark web. But one anonymous project that goes only by Tomi has found a way to harness blockchain to tackle the censorship question. The project is building TomiNet, a secure and encrypted protocol empowering journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens to surf the web free of government and corporate surveillance.
Led by eight senior crypto veterans working with 72 developers, the network leverages DAO governance to foster community-driven censorship of the more illicit activities that run rampant on the most prominent alternative internet networks today.
The idea behind TomiNet is simple: Governments and corporations can’t be trusted to govern the network—just as they aren’t on the dark web. Instead, let the community itself strike down violence and exploitation anonymously.
TomiNet is governed by a community-led DAO, which votes on decisions via “Pioneer” NFTs and Tomi tokens about running TomiNet and censoring content that doesn’t meet the network’s “blacklist” community guidelines. Terror, child-sexual-abuse imagery, and other forms of violence are among the categories on the blacklist to be voted down by the DAO.
The Tomi team holds weight equal to average users in voting about the community guidelines and censorship, though it will hold enough tokens to have stronger influence over the technological direction of the project in the initial stages.
TomiNet is structured in a way that creates a path for the citizens of the new web to out-vote the core developers and technological leadership within three years. That’s intentional on the part of Tomi, which doesn’t seek the kind of power held by the leaders of projects such as Ethereum or Cosmos.
The question of how to reign in the dark web’s most dangerous elements will surely be debated for years to come, but what’s for certain is blockchain mechanisms aren’t the enemy, and in fact can potentially be part of the solution, as Tomi suggests in building TomiNet. It will be worth watching how far DAO governance goes in terms of cleaning keeping the elements that gave the dark web its name out of TomiNet.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.
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