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RecDAO: When decentralisation isn't the answer

RecDAO: When decentralisation isn't the answer

Reddit, the sixth most visited website in the world, is for many the go to portal for crypto news. Its Bitcoin subreddit has 790,000 subscribers; its Ethereum counterpart has 350,000. The news posted to each sub has an audience of millions and can drive market perception. 

Subs are regulated by a number of users designated as moderators and therefore able to remove or edit content. If a moderator deletes a submission, it is no longer able to be viewed in the stream of news articles coming through. This has caused some issues in certain subreddits, where moderators assume too much power. 

The EthTrader subreddit (as the name suggests, a sub set up to discuss the trading of Ethereum and associated ERC20 tokens) has recently instituted a pilot program called the RecDAO which aims to solve this issue by decentralising the moderation of the sub. It works by allowing users to vote on whether a submission should be promoted or deleted. It is intended to prevent the spreading of spam or manipulation. All users get a proportional amount of RECT allowing them to vote on submissions in a similar manner to other voting systems on blockchain. 

Unfortunately this system is going to exacerbate the issue rather than solve it. 

The RecDAO suffers from three flaws:

  1. It offers all users a route to manipulate the news visible for their own agenda as opposed to the slim number that previously had such power
  2. The incentive to delete or promote is higher for those with vested interests whereas those who are merely absorbing the news have no incentive (or even the knowledge) to interfere
  3. Voter apathy is high when it comes to important issues such as elections or referendums and voting participation on existing blockchain Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) systems is low. This inactivity will make it even easier for a small number of people to have a high impact

An example of how this will unfold is illustrated by the treatment of one such submission today which linked to an article surrounding the delisting of Centra by Binance following the SECs charge of fraud against the ICO. This was an objective article that was merely relaying news. There was nothing contentious about it and it is important news about a project now close to extinction. However, immediately after it was submitted a comment from the 'RECcurator' bot popped up:

"This post has received a rejection stake via the r/recdao content curator and will be removed in 1 hour. Disagree? Stake 20 REC to support it."

A post that had barely been seen by anyone was marked for deletion and then removed within less than 90 minutes of being posted. Voting by blockchain is not just reliant on interest, it also takes time. Many store their tokens on hardware or paper wallets they do not have immediate access to. Others would be asleep. Even if they wanted to, they likely wouldn't have been able to get to a PC in time. You can see the post via the direct link here; you will not be able to find it by searching through the list of new articles on EthTrader. It has been obliterated.

The RecDAO remains in trial and some of these issues (such as timings) can be sorted out. But the overarching problem can't. It should not be incumbent on a community to protect news from being deleted or hidden when the incentives for those to delete articles are so much higher. Even a community sourced project such as Wikipedia has some form of centralisation to ensure it does not become a free for all. The RecDAO is an inherently flawed system that highlights that just because we can decentralise something doesn't mean we should. 

Correction: It would actually be staking, rather than voting - but I see the same issues. 

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