Social platform alternatives with an ad network where ad space cannot be bought with money but only by competing on sustainable parameters. This could create a level playing field for both smaller local businesses & MNCs to compete and bring increasingly sustainable & local alternatives for consumers.
Q: Shouldn’t such alternative social platforms exist?
Of course, a truly climate positive social platform would not promote unnecessary consumption of even sustainable alternatives and hence would allow members to opt-out of all ads (missing feature from social platforms of today and also a key to disruption).
I cannot unsee the benefits of a social platform that encourages climate action as economic activity.
Open source social platform alternatives could lead the way for all the right reasons (which deserves a separate thread).
Unlike most discussions here that are focused on on-ground climate actions, this post intends to push what it means for online social platforms to be climate positive and the larger discussion about the role of social platforms in the climate crisis.
Ways social platforms based ad networks can be climate positive:
Option to turn off all ads: Ensures consumption is not promoted without consent, in your social experiences.
No paid ads: Enables local and smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses that out bid them on existing ad networks currently.
Sustainability ranking based ads: Ensures all businesses compete on openly selected sustainability parameters (ingredients, energy consumed, distance traveled, price, etc) to reach potential customers.
Community based ads: Along with automated review systems, admins/mods of communities you are already part of and past customers review ads on above parameters before potential customers see it.
Option to set ad count: Ability to limit number of ads shown ensures sustainable businesses (determined by reviews) get to reach potential customers (and more importantly, less sustainable businesses don’t).
Businesses are tools of value creation and the most important value creation during a climate crisis is climate action. Hence, redesigning ad networks to help businesses create the value we collectively need is a no-brainer. Plus, no more annoying ads. Win-win.
Ways climate-positive, social platforms can also help mental well being:
Finite scrolling: Set time limit for online social experiences. Your timeline will now be optimised to bring you the best content in set time (rather than being optimised for content that hooks you for as long as possible). Imagine social platforms that save you time as a result.
Decentralised content moderation: If content moderation is decentralised to all community members without needing special roles and assisted by ML tools trained on data from greater participation can result in content moderation closer to people’s expectations in respective communities; rather than relying on one-size-fits-all content policy, ML tools that are trained on the few flagged posts (meta model) or potentially biased moderators (reddit model). This prevents any possibility of people working in inhumane work conditions for content moderation and enables content moderation at source resulting in healthier social content for all.
Open wellness: Opt into mental wellness analytics as determined by your normal online social activity, based on openly researched mental wellness indicators. Existing platforms potentially profile your mental wellness and factor it into serving ads, without you even having access to it.
It is important people get all the help they can get from the local & personal communities that actually matter during climate crisis, and that climate-positive, open social platforms exist to enable them in ways they need it most.
What are other ways social platforms can help with wellness?
Ways open social platforms can break data silos for better informed climate action for the individual:
Social platform such that people can add products/services to ‘sustainable habits’ on their profiles and review their sustainability, as a form of endorsement.
If endorsement is limited to one per habit and number of habit themselves are limited (based on time/activity), it would set foundation to incentivize the companies to work to earn that endorsement for being sustainable which adds to their reputation.
This enables data silos to be broken and come together in some exciting ways.
Building data bridges: Option to connect social account with companies with your data, such that they could work with additional data (that social platforms intrinsically generate) to help make their products/service more sustainable.
Community accepted bridges: Openly researched sustainability standards by companies and accepted by community, before individual members even get an option to connect accounts and build that bridge.
First mover advantage: The additional data and community participation could be incentive enough for companies to openly work towards sustainability. First movers get the opportunity to set the first standard for the industry to beat.
Access based ad network: Continuous improvement (determined by reviews) on set goals would be great and only way to determine continued access to the ad network. You do good, you get to reap more.
Privacy first: No data is directly shared between connected accounts, rather code based on the standards accepted by the community first and by the member, is run and results are shared. This could be a fully deterministic process for the member, using blockchain (read more in document below).
All the data in the world must be more valuable to the people, especially during a crisis, than whatever else it is valued for.
Cannot wait for the day when Farmers, Teachers, companies like Ather, Ola, Dunzo, Zomato, Dmart, Big-basket, and local governing organisations like BMRCL, BMTC, BBMP, around the world are linked by their customers/citizens through open social platforms, to work towards climate goals.
Is this a way startup ecosystem in India could come together and build for the world?
I firmly believe that social media is a net negative and has accelerated the worst traits (eg: consumerism and materialism) in humanity, contributing significantly to various aspects of climate change. Don’t think social media is a solution to any climate problems.
That said, what you’ve described above, there are federated communities and forums that already do this. The Mastodon communities are a good example.
I firmly believe that social media is a net negative and has accelerated the worst traits (eg: consumerism and materialism) in humanity, contributing significantly to various aspects of climate change.
I feel this deeply. But if there exists any social platform that does not amplify the worst of humanity but rather the best of humanity - it would be climate positive ones. 4 billion (and counting!) people who use online social platforms deserve those alternatives.
Although Mastodon is great open source alternative (especially from data/privacy perspective), it is at least missing layer/s or features that focus directly on helping local communities be climate positive (like helping businesses compete on sustainable terms, etc).
We already know climate crisis cannot be solved by few those who care to take constructive steps while rest continue to take destructive steps. It is important that most who cannot ‘afford’ to care also take climate action.
An average social platform user wants non-abusive ad experience (even if it means opting out of all ads), providing exactly that already reduces consumerism (which is a great first step as climate action for most) but it also helps their local economies become more sustainable - either (1) as consumers who interact by reviewing sustainability of products & services and help their communities choose the sustainable alternatives, or (2) as producers who can now compete in local economy without being out competed by those who can afford to advertise the most.
This not only helps local entrepreneurs, but also (3) helps recognise local sustainable companies and businesses that can be investment opportunities for local community. Small cases for sustainable local companies.
I think this would be considered helping people take climate action and a part of climate solutions.
By not limiting it to just social commerce but extending it as marketplace platform through community based reviews of products & services like ‘abillion’, with an ad network optimised for local businesses, could help people consume sustainably faster.