Tired of Imposters on Social Networks? Here's EnoughTea; a Version of Instagram Built on Blockchain
While at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Blockchain Journal editor-in-chief David Berlind met with Max Lurya, founder and developer of EnoughTea; an Instagram look-alike application that incorporates the Know Your Customer (KYC) approach of blockchain in order to offer an imposter and bot-free social network (full text transcript appears below).
By David BerlindPublished:January 17, 2023
How can blockchain be used to revolutionize social networks?
David Berlind: I'm David Berlind with Blockchain Journal. I'm reporting from Davos, Switzerland, where right now World Economic Forum is in full swing. And standing with me is Max Lurya. Max is the founder of a company called EnoughTea, and this is one of those new age applications where social media is being built on top of Blockchain to solve for some of the problems that current social media applications like Facebook and Instagram don't solve for. Some of the many complaints you see about how social media works today can be solved with blockchain. And Max, can you tell me how that's going to work?
Max Lurya: Yes. Thank you, David, by the way, for having me right now. So one of the biggest problems that you have with traditional social media is that the button has no value. It has no value because of bots, because of fake users. So what we do is we require the user to go through the same sort of KYC process that you would have when you sign up for Binance or another exchange in order to even hit the like button. That ensures –
Berlind: I'm going to pause you right there. KYC. Explain that for one sec.
Lurya: KYC generally means know your customer. So when you sign up for a banking app, you go through a process known as KYC to ensure that you are who you say you are.
Berlind: Why do you go through that? Is there a regulation or something that forces people through that when you're just setting up a bank account?
Lurya: The Bank Secrecy Act. In the United States, in order to set up an account, you have to really know who your customer is to make sure that they're not in a jurisdiction that is subject to sanctions.
Berlind: Okay. So there are already regulations in place and what you're kind of trying to do here is say, hey look, we've built an application that uses the same sort of rigor to assure that everybody is who they say they are. Right? Because in social media you never know who is who, people say they're somebody and they're not. And you're applying that same rigor now to social media in ways that Facebook, Instagram don't do.
Lurya: Exactly. Everybody who I know who has an account of more than 1000 followers has been impersonated by someone else. One of the problems that you have is that people steal intelectual property, but also Cyberbullying. You block someone, they come back as someone else. Harassment, fake users, fake likes. Content creators don't really know how many real followers they have. And also, content creators are cynical of other content creators because they know that they can buy likes. Also, people who make ads don't know if the content creator really has value in the region where they want to target their users. So because our app is separated by regions similar to iTunes or App Store, we can offer advertisers and content creators a clean way to ensure that if you have 1000 likes from Switzerland, that means that 1000 Swiss people actually liked your content. That tells you the value of the content creator for that market.
Berlind: So the KYC element helps with the analytics when it comes to that sort of reporting. So why Blockchain? Why is that necessary to make these sorts of features possible where other social networks aren't running it on Blockchain at all?
Lurya: Blockchain offers transparency. People often forget that the origins of cryptocurrency or the origin of blockchain was not for anonymity, it was for transparency. It was to provide transparency for notaries. So when you use blockchain technology, you are assuring the customers that the transactions are happening because you're giving them access to the public ledger. It's a ledger that's immutable, meaning they don't have to trust us. We chose to build our app with distributed ledger technology because it ensures the customer that the likes are calculated and computed fairly. They don't have to trust our backend. They can trust a public ledger that's available to everybody. It's accessible to everybody.
Berlind: And the likes of course are coming from people who have been verified to be who they are. So it's not like on Amazon where you get a bunch of reviews from people that are being paid just to do the review and you really don't know about the authenticity of that content.
Lurya: Absolutely. So the way that we envision the future is imagine that you're a company and you have a hashtag, so #Coca-Cola. And if you were to put $1,000 into that hashtag and then you were to reward users who promoted Coca-Cola proportionate to the amount of likes that they had, you can only do that if you had trust in the like system. If you thought that likes can be abused, if you thought that bots can make duplicate accounts, you wouldn't be able to use that advertising model because there would be no trust that the like came from an individual rather than –
Berlind: Not to mention when we think about what happened in the way that the Russians leveraged bots to spread misinformation over the last couple years during the US elections, this would solve for that problem too, right?
Lurya: Absolutely. Because there's a sort of built-in due diligence in the sense that we don't require the user to share their real name, but we do require the user to share their location. So if you're talking about the elections and you're a Macedonia, there's a sort of built-in mechanism of due diligence. You now understand that if someone's talking about protests in Georgia, but they're based in Romania, that maybe you should question the legitimacy of that report.
Berlind: That's terrific. So the name of the company is EnoughTea. The name of the application is...
Berlind: And that's not NFT, as in non fungible token. It's Enough, like I've had enough, EnoughTea as in tea, the drink, the hot beverage.
Berlind: So can we take a look?
Lurya: Sure. So in order to even hit the button, you have to go through KYC, which is built into the app. Currently we're using Jumio, which is a trusted third party KYC provider based in Palo Alto, they're GDPR and CCPA compliant. So let's go to the CTOs page, Ahmed Alkalush. So here you would have a mixture of regular photos and NFTs. These are actually NFTs. So our solution is if you know how to use traditional social media, you know how to mint NFTs. But also what we would like to do is allow users to transact cryptocurrency using wallets.
Because we follow the Bank Secrecy Act, because we're compliant, we're able to do this in a way that doesn't violate US sanctions law. This is the verify account feature, but this user's already verified, so it would do nothing. But if you were a new user, when you click verify account, you would simply smile, that data would be collected by our third party KYC provider, Jumio, they would analyze it to make sure you are who you say you are, and then they would cross-reference it with an identity card similar to when you sign up for Binance.
Berlind: So if you go back to an image there that has a bunch of likes on it, can you show how the likes are coming from other accounts that have been KYC'd?
Lurya: No, because we don't even allow users to hit the like button unless they go through the KYC process. So one like means one user. What we're going to add is the functionality when you click on the like, that will show you a distribution by country. So you can see how many likes you have in each region. As you see here, when you click on the user, it shows the country where they are. He doesn't need to show that he's Ahmed Alkalush, but he does need to show where he gave his KYC. As I said, this protects users from fraud. This shows users that they're interacting at least on some level with an individual who purports to be from that region and that gives a built-in sense of due diligence, especially when it comes to things like tweets and fake news.
Berlind: So this looks very much like Instagram. Why would I use Instagram when I have this capability?
Lurya: You would use Instagram because there are more users and we have no users yet, so if you want to interact with your friends. But in the future, I don't believe that Instagram's model is good for other advertisers or content creators. That's why Elon Musk was very irked when he found out that there were so many bots on Twitter. That's because Twitter's business model doesn't require them to have real users. It actually is to their benefit to inflate the amount of users they have because that brings up the valuation of their app. There's no real value for them to have less users. It actually hurts their valuation. For us, because one is always one human being, one view is always one human being, there's a message to the content creators and the advertisers. This content creator has this value in this region, and we mitigated the risk significantly that that user is fake or a bot.
Berlind: Okay, so you're just getting off the ground. Where can people find the app?
Lurya: Nowhere. Not until we've talked to these guys and find some VCs, but remember the name.
Berlind: Okay, so you're just in your beginning stages here, but is there even a website where people can come look for you?
Berlind: And again, that's enough, like I've had enough, and tea, the hot beverage.
Lurya: There's EnoughTea for everyone. Just remember it like that.
Berlind: Max Lurya, founder of EnoughTea. Thank you very much.
Lurya: Thank you, David. Pleasure to be here.
Berlind: Have a great rest of World Economic Forum.
Lurya: Thank you.