The advertising ban on cryptocurrencies launched by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Snap added insult to injury on the heels of the launch of SEC probes and a continuing bear market for crypto. Looking at the ban one might conclude that the giants are out to damage the industry, but the reality looks to be quite different.
Google recently announced it was working on “blockchain-related”technology and Google Ventures has been actively investing in the field. In a reflective Facebook post from January 4, Mark Zuckerberg wrote “one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization” and that “there are important counter-trends to this — like encryption and cryptocurrency.”
So what does this information dissonance mean? Can the big platforms help become partners in this digital revolution? There’s no doubt the answer is yes because they have so much to offer. They employ some of the world’s smartest problem solvers and have built products that have changed the way people live in almost every way. If anyone has some understanding of what it means to revolutionize business, communication, video, news, play etc. through technology these giants certainly do, even if they are still learning how to do it all responsibly.
As such, we are relying on them to be fair partners and offer a level playing field for our industry as we fight against the bad actors.
Much like the “fake news” phenomenon that has swept the world over the past year, digital advertisements of fake ICOs are hurting individuals who are falling prey to deceptive products.
So does that mean we should institute draconian measures to protect potential investors, banning any ICO-related ad from ever seeing the light of day?
Surely there is a better way.
We would be wise to implement processes with consumer safety in mind so that as crypto becomes more mainstream, it also becomes more trusted.
We propose three ways to do so using digital advertising as the medium, whereas:
- Companies must have real provable operations
- Companies must clearly deliver value to their customers and clients
- Companies should exclude doing business with rogue states
What this clearly requires is oversight. Many countries have started, or are in the process of, recognizing cryptocurrency as market force. So, in some ways government will take this charge itself. However, there will have to be some community policing as well. Much like Facebook now includes more background information on stories that pop-up on people’s timelines, it is up to us to call out and report bad behavior.
Companies that are currently providing this sort of leadership in a variety of industries include the Bancor Protocol, which has created a novel approach to providing liquidity in the crypto market; Basic Attention Token which reduces ad fraud by measuring and recording user engagement on the blockchain; and Filecoin, which establishes a peer-to-peer data file storage market that might compete with cloud storage solutions.
Much has been made of users being the “products” of these platforms and the media has fed the image of people being data-fied, packaged and sold for to advertisers. This is a simplistic view. These platforms are great because of their users. They allow billions across the globe to connect and share information, and they would make great partners to the crypto space because of their reach.
These audiences can be used to create positive virality, spreading good products that can help further the mission of decentralization and inclusion that is core to so many blockchain projects.
Banning ads was a combative move, but there is certainly more than meets the eye. Most likely this was a knee-jerk reaction to the space; now is the time to follow-up with a coherent strategy to participate in this new industry. These platforms have the capacity to bring their technical expertise to the market, helping disruptive blockchain companies better serve global customers.