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Panquake Exposes AI-driven Social Media
"AI has become the liar that lies to us, the thief that steals from us and the spy that spies on us" says Panquake Founder, Suzie Dawson, at Monerotopia
In a groundbreaking presentation at Monerotopia Panquake Founder Suzie Dawson fired an opening salvo at social media companies exploiting the power and potential of AI for profit without due ethical consideration for users, the marketplace or their own workforce.
The speech covers:
Dawson’s personal journey to the conception of Panquake
How fake news and censorship is only the beginning and we will soon live in an undetectable filterverse powered by AI
AI systems are not only stealing our ideas and innovations without attribution, but engaging with surveillance systems and much worse
Call for action for more Web3 projects to counter AI systems and to embed economic freedom by design
How Panquake is providing one of the alternatives for a different future
Q&A from the audience at Monerotopia
Monerotopia brings privacy advocates, security experts, developers, tech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts of the Monero project from all corners of the globe together, to share and build upon ideas on the Monero protocol, and to discuss the latest trends and disruptive technologies.
The conference spanned over three days filled with workshops, panels and presentations. The first two days consisted of technical talks around security and crypto. Seth For Privacy delivered his talk on “Against Monero Maximalism”, while Justin Ehrenhofer, VP of Cake Wallet discussed, “An Overview of Bitcoin Privacy efforts: the good, the bad, and the ugly”.
A common theme amongst the speakers was utilizing blockchain technology to protect user privacy, in an era where censorship, de-platforming and destruction of privacy is at an all-time high. Dawson, delivered her speech titled, “PANQUAKE: Baking Human Rights Into Next Gen Blockchain Tech” addressing the delegates on major concerns regarding the continued erosion of human rights in the technology space.
The Monerotopia conference was in full swing in Huerto Roma Verde, a community-run urban garden in the heart of the city. Attendees who were lucky enough donned Panquake privacy merchandise consisting of exclusive privacy sunglasses, bags and umbrellas, to keep their identity hidden. Online saw the Panquake team release privacy themed puzzles in celebration of the Monerotopia event. Smiles were seen all round as attendees who scored limited-edition Panquake merchandise proudly showed it off on social media.
Regarding the one-off merchandise, Dawson said: “Panquake’s ethos of protecting users extends to our merchandising. That’s why our exclusive privacy-protecting merch like sunglasses, umbrellas and bags, are only available in person at conferences and events. Enabling you to collect limited edition Panquake goodies without handing over any data whatsoever.”
You can see clips from the presentation below, read the transcript provided and please share this post if these messages resonate with you.
Hi everybody, thanks so much for having me. My name is Suzie Dawson, I’m the Founder and the Chief Product Officer of Panquake.com. Monero is a project which obviously shares the ethos and ethics of Panquake and we’re really, really proud to be platformed here today.
“This project and the time that we are all in, in this world, are about more than just selling a product.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
So obviously I should be here to tell you about our project and I will do a little bit of that, but this project and the time that we are all in, in this world, are about more than just selling a product. And in putting together my presentation today, I thought a lot about why people come to Monerotopia. Obviously, some of them are people who work on the amazing Monero team. Obviously, some are people who want to work with Monero. Some of you just want to be up to date with the latest in blockchain tech. But I think there’s something more at the core. I think at the fundamentals that everyone involved with Monero in some way, shape, or form, really are people that care. They care about freedom. They care about liberty. They care about privacy. And they care about protecting and preserving life. So while I'm supposed to be here today to promote a product, actually what I would rather do is promote humanity, and promote the creation of better types of technology, with less focus on the money and more focus on the people.
So I guess I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself. I’ve had a pretty interesting life, specifically in the last 15 years or so. I started using computers as far back as the Apple IIE in the 80’s, and the Commodore 64, right though Pentium 1 100 and so on and so forth. I was around for the very beginnings of Internet community, bulletin board services and news groups, using monochrome screens, all the way through IRC, the Napster years, right up until the present day. There’s so much that I love about the Internet, but there’s a lot, these days particularly, that I deplore as well.
“…while I'm supposed to be here today to promote a product, actually what I would rather do is promote humanity, and promote the creation of better types of technology, with less focus on the money and more focus on the people.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
Around 2009 - 2010 I became particularly interested in a project called Wikileaks, which I’m sure you all have heard of. I watched that project really closely. I did everything I could to promote it, to spread the word about the Wikileaks releases. And then in 2011, when the Occupy Movement came along, I got very deeply and personally involved back in my hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. I became involved with Occupy Auckland and Occupy New Zealand. It was a time when we really thought that a better world was at our fingertips, and that we could just band together to create it, to fix the problems that we were all facing post the 2008 financial collapse. And a lot of really beautiful things came out of Occupy. A lot of wonderful projects came about because of Occupy. But unfortunately, I got my first taste of state repression because of the Occupy Movement as well.
When I became aware that more than 80 New Zealand citizens were illegally targeted by the GCSB, the Government Communications Security Bureau, which is the New Zealand version of the NSA, and had been illegally spied on, on behalf of the United States Of America, I became particularly outraged. These were in the days following the FBI raid on New Zealand soil of Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom's mansion, and I was so aggrieved at what I could see was being done to all the citizens of New Zealand through mass surveillance, that I dedicated myself full time to the creation of the hashtag #GCSB, which became a trending viral hashtag in New Zealand and eventually a very large on-the-ground movement to take a stand against illegal surveillance of New Zealand citizens by our own spy agencies.
“When I became aware that more than 80 New Zealand citizens were illegally targeted by the GCSB, the Government Communications Security Bureau, which is the New Zealand version of the NSA, and had been illegally spied on, on behalf of the United States Of America, I became particularly outraged.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
I was live tweeting activism protest events on the ground. I was documenting police abuse of protesters, publishing blog posts with evidence of those police abuses. My work began being picked up by media agencies around the world and gaining quite a bit of traction.
Through 2011 – 2014 I was involved in a number of major activism movements in New Zealand, all on the same theme: anti-surveillance, pro-privacy, pro-human rights, anti-capitalist exploitation of people. For example, #TPPANoWay against the Trans Pacific Partnership, which I was very heavily involved in. And also for #OilFreeSeas and campaigns just really against the exploitation of my country, of the people of my country.
That was when Wikileaks took an interest in my work. Julian Assange specifically began pretty routinely sharing my work from about 2014. And unfortunately the targeting of me by New Zealand state services consistently ramped up, and I actually had to leave New Zealand in 2015.
I have worked with and had deep conversations with and relationships with a number of very high profile household-name whistleblowers and journalists over the years, and Julian and I communicated right through up until he was arrested from the Ecuadorian Embassy in early 2019.
And in 2018, I started Unity4J, which was a very large international movement in support of Julian. Julian is really a very key part for me, ideologically, of why we created Panquake. Julian was warning the world about censorship on social media, and monopolistic practices and abuses of users by social media companies, many years before it became a hot mainstream topic.
I’m being told that if I hit Present I can show you some slides. Ok let’s have a look.
I’ve got a couple of tweets here from Julian that I would love to show you. Tweets which are a great example of what inspired me to come up with the idea of Panquake. Let’s have a look at some of the words of Julian. I want to make it clear, Julian is an icon, but he’s not an icon to me. I’m actually really good friends with his Mum. He’s someone who to me, is a very real person, a human being, an individual. He’s not just an icon or a picture on the wall. But Julian is absolutely brilliant and highly intelligent. And when you spoke to him that screamed through every single one of his words.
“Julian is really a very key part for me, ideologically, of why we created Panquake. Julian was warning the world about censorship on social media, and monopolistic practices and abuses of users by social media companies, many years before it became a hot mainstream topic.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
Here is a tweet of Julian in August of 2017 talking about Twitter censorship. And he said: ‘Twitter’s increasing censorship points to the future: each person will live in an undetectable filterverse of one.’ That filterverse is about filtering the information that comes in to you as a user, the information that you’re able to access. It’s also about filtering out information that you are trying to get out into the world. And those twin modes of censorship, the internal and the external, lock you into what Julian described as the filterverse, where you’re literally trapped in a data prison that is manipulated, rather than being able to freely communicate as is your human right.
Julian specifically called for a decentralized cryptographic alternative. He said, ‘Twitter’s freedom of expression has been on an inexorable decline. It is enslaved to its US jurisdiction and its politics. Although it is substantially better than Facebook that is a very low standard indeed.’ Note, "US jurisdiction". That is a key point here because while there have been many changes of late at Twitter, the US jurisdiction has not changed. And everybody in blockchain and cryptocurrency projects knows what the US jurisdiction means in terms of impact upon us, and the stranglehold that they have on economic systems, as well as innovation and R&D, etcetera.
But Julian said more than that. Julian actually issued A Call To Cryptographic Arms in the foreword of his book Cypherpunks in 2012. He said, ‘The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.’ Those are enormous words, but they are absolutely true. And look at that, that was eleven years ago that he spoke them.
“…while there have been many changes of late at Twitter, the US jurisdiction has not changed. And everybody in blockchain and cryptocurrency projects knows what the US jurisdiction means in terms of impact upon us, and the stranglehold that they have on economic systems" - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
At the end of that foreword, there is another call to action. Julian said, ‘Our task is to secure self-determination where we can, to hold back the coming dystopia where we cannot, and if all else fails, to accelerate its self-destruction.’ Those are words that I personally have never forgotten. They’re extremely gravely spoken and Julian was really feeling the heat when he wrote them. We all know how much he has suffered as a result of the targeting he has faced for his brilliance, and for his efforts to emancipate people from the abuse of the Internet being perpetuated by corporations. And by the military. And by Governments.
But we must not allow ourselves to be deterred by that. We need to recognize when the law fails us, and certainly in blockchain and crypto routinely, the law is failing us. In human rights and international law, the law is failing us. When systems of social protection break down, Julian believed, and I believe that it falls upon us as technologists to create systems that restore those lapsed rights to the public.
And those of us who are trailblazers understand firsthand what it is to be targeted for subversion, for sabotage of our projects, appropriation of our ideas and suppression. Like whistleblowers, truth-tellers and journalists, and in this day and age even doctors, scientists, researchers, we’ve been unjustly placed in the crosshairs of monopolistic forces, be they corporate or governmental.
“We need to recognize when the law fails us, and certainly in blockchain and crypto routinely, the law is failing us. In human rights and international law, the law is failing us. When systems of social protection break down, Julian believed, and I believe, that it falls upon us as technologists to create systems that restore those lapsed rights to the public.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
Too many people think that safety can be found in silence, complicity or submission. Too many people do sell out or self-censor. But their silence only delays the inevitable. All of us will be impacted, regardless of whether we stay silent about what is going on. But in fact there is a stronger safety in numbers. And the decentralized app eco-system, Web3, provides those numbers. And in a great enough number, we can effect change. We can alter outcomes. Wikileaks certainly altered many outcomes. And with Wikileaks suppressed by the jailing of Julian Assange, it’s on all of us to collectively step up and start altering outcomes.
The fight that we face now is not a fight against each other, project vs. project or chain vs. chain, fighting for market share. The fight is existential. This fight is on behalf of the whole species, without which there'll be no economy and no market.
“And in a great enough number, we can effect change. We can alter outcomes. Wikileaks certainly altered many outcomes. And with Wikileaks suppressed by the jailing of Julian Assange, it’s on all of us to collectively step up and start altering outcomes.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
The last thing that Julian said to me before he was hauled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2019 was, he said, “history is fake news all the way down”. That was a huge and resounding statement from someone who had spent as much time examining real truthful source documentation about how the world really works, and what the true history of humankind is, as Julian Assange. If you go and Google—which I don’t suggest you ever use—Julian Assange or Wikileaks, all you will read is fake news, all the way down.
The Internet is controlled by people with an interest in spreading fake news, and in manufacturing a false history for humanity. However, blockchain technology is a method by which we can record a real history, not just a narrative history. Not just retelling stories, though that too. But actually record a history of actions. Of user actions and of network actions.
I long since lost faith in the ability of a social media platform to accurately record or reflect my actions. My rather substantial Twitter account that I used to have literally lied to me every day; lied to me about how many followers I had, lied to me about how many impressions I had, lied to me about what actions I’d taken, or others had. I didn’t get DM’s, I would have them some show up months later. I lost 5,000 followers in a day without having done anything differently, all kinds of strange experiences, which any target or anybody who’s fallen afoul of power has also similarly experienced.
“The Internet is controlled by people with an interest in spreading fake news, and in manufacturing a false history for humanity. However, blockchain technology is a method by which we can record a real history, not just a narrative history. Not just retelling stories, though that too. But actually record a history of actions. Of user actions and of network actions.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
So for me there is zero trust in social media platforms. However, we can use the blockchain to record actions that we take as users, and have an indelible proof that the network has executed those actions. Similarly, we can record the actions of the network, in moderation practices for example, on the blockchain and provide a cryptographic proof to users about what actions were taken by the network. This provides a level of transparency that we have not seen before from any major social media company. And in this way, we can create a real history of social media interactions between users and networks, rather than the fake news that we’re often provided with about why a platform did this or that, or whether they did at all.
Blockchain architects get to choose, in terms of the actual way that we create and structure the block, what data is stored and what is not. We configure them according to our vision. This is a very real and significant power. We can, in our blockchain design, as Seth For Privacy likes to say, ‘Opt Out,’ we can choose not to collect, we can choose not to store, and we can choose not to sell. In doing so, we can protect others, and we can protect ourselves. And most importantly, we can take a step towards creating an Internet of people again, instead of an Internet that exploits or that even kills.
And now things are going to get a little bit dark because we’re going to talk a bit about that. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Twitter Files. The Twitter Files are a really big deal these days. The Twitter files are about censorship, they’re about politics. They’re about this or that political party wanting to achieve this or that outcome. But there’s actually been a lot more going on with Twitter than just censorship and politics.
Our project, our Panquake Development team took some time out last year and created something called WLDragnet—the WL in homage to Wikileaks obviously—that is an open source search and reporting tool that we created to analyze thousands of documents that we obtained, which were reports produced by U.S. DOD-connected agencies, private agencies, and also supposedly non-profit agencies, that had been leeching massive amounts of Twitter data, user data, through the Twitter API to dragnet and profile users for the purpose of reporting them, in a mass targeting exercise, to US military-connected agencies.
That sounds shocking enough, but then we found other documents. And those other documents are a part of what we’re calling WLDragnet 2. WLDragnet 2 reveals a project called Social Radar, which was commissioned by the US Department of Defense. They engaged Mitre Corp, which is a huge DOD contractor in the States, to develop software which would combine into one huge pool all of the various channels of data used for social media monitoring. They used open source data. They used data from newspapers or data from public records. And they combined that with their closed-source data from their surveillance systems. They married all that data up together into these huge data pools, and then they had AI algorithms process and analyze that data, and then decide upon, as in the AI algorithms decide upon, Courses Of Action, COA is what they call it, courses of action for military command to choose from. This is U.S. Cyber Force, Cyber Command specifically, and also the U.S. Airforce.
Now that could get you arrested if you’re an activist. It could get you detained, it could get your vehicle or your house searched. But when we’re talking about AI making courses of action decisions, or providing potential decisions to military command, it’s actually not just about you getting arrested, or detained, or losing your job. It’s actually about Airforce drones targeting people in a variety of countries in the world, for what they call in the documents, “kinetic action,” which means literally dropping a drone bomb on your head.
“In 30 years, they will be able to tell you what your four year old did at kindergarten today. This is the world that we live in. If we allow AI systems to connect with those surveillance systems, we’re taking it to that next level. The AI is capturing not just our relationships and profiling us, but it’s stealing our ideas, our creations and our innovations without attribution. In this sense AI has become the liar that lies to us, the thief that steals from us and the spy that spies on us. And given what I’ve just explained about the Social Radar, DOD and Mitre programs, we’re not that far off now from AI the assassin.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
So in this very real way, Twitter data collected about users is being used not just to censor users, not just to further a political party, but actually to assassinate human beings. And in this sense it’s true that AI is already choosing who lives and who dies.
AI obviously is a hot topic at the moment, or an increasingly hot topic, it has been public for a long time, but now that people can type questions and get answers in a cool chat bot it’s becoming the next big thing. However, we know as technologists that the AI algorithms didn’t write themselves. They were commissioned, they were bought and paid for, as were the developers who worked on them. And we know the product of the AI is, in fact, defining, for those who interact with it, how the puppet masters of the AI want us to view the world. It’s coming back to producing that history of fake news that Julian was talking about.
We know that AI-connected systems are engaging with surveillance systems. They’re facilitating spying on us. We’ve known since the Snowden Files in 2013 that our cameras are spying on us, that our cameras are capturing and recording everything that they see of us, and storing it for literally eternity. We know that our microphones are listening to us and storing it for eternity. We know they’re capturing and profiling our WiFi and network information, and those of the networks around us, the relationships we have, everything about our daily existence is stored for all eternity. In 30 years, they will be able to tell you what your four year old did at kindergarten today. This is the world that we live in. If we allow AI systems to connect with those surveillance systems, we’re taking it to that next level.
The AI is capturing not just our relationships and profiling us, but it’s stealing our ideas, our creations and our innovations without attribution. In this sense AI has become the liar that lies to us, the thief that steals from us and the spy that spies on us. And given what I’ve just explained about the Social Radar, DOD and Mitre programs, we’re not that far off now from AI the assassin.
“You can’t claim to be a social media company taking a stand against bots, if you’re run by them.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
So what does this mean for social media companies. Well, you can’t claim to be a social media company taking a stand against bots, if you’re run by them. And you can’t claim to be acting for the betterment of humanity, if you are undermining the work-force and the marketplace through the use of AI. Not to mention contributing to spying on users, profiling them and monetizing their data.
Some people, who shall remain nameless, claim that AI is a potential threat to humanity while simultaneously investing in AI systems and operating businesses riddled with AI technology. That is an abject hypocrisy, and we at Panquake don’t want to be part of it. Panquake is proof that you can build a highly innovative next-generation social media business – product, team and customer base without using AI at all to do it. Panquake is taking a stand against the type of manipulative corporatist behavior, and that’s why we’re committed to eradicating the use of AI from our product, from our users' social media timelines, from even our customer service and service channel, and even our internal staff and management systems. All of them are completely eradicating AI.
We hope that in the future other Web3 projects will heed this call to action and help to be a part of a better future, rather than exacerbating the problems of the present. And don't get me wrong here, we are not actually trying to tell you what to do. If you want to use AI for your personal projects, go for it. If you find it has some use for you, go for it. We’re just telling you that we aren’t going to spend our users' subscription fees on manipulating their timelines and their feeds, or on putting good and productive people out of a job.
“Some people, who shall remain nameless, claim that AI is a potential threat to humanity while simultaneously investing in AI systems and operating businesses riddled with AI technology. That is an abject hypocrisy, and we at Panquake don’t want to be part of it. Panquake is proof that you can build a highly innovative next-generation social media business – product, team and customer base without using AI at all to do it.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
Businesses like ours cannot thrive in a world where people cannot afford to meet their basic needs. And that, post-pandemic especially, has got to be factored into our risk management policy. Post collapse of the middle class, with the 0.1% sucking everybody dry. If we don’t build systems that help turn things around economically for our users, people won’t have any money to pay us, and that is not good business.
Personally, I believe in user-supported networks. User-supported networks can enrich the platform, the platform owners, the platform contributors and the users alike. We’ve seen it with Substack. We’ve seen it with many other projects that have spawned successfully based on a user-supported model. That means we don’t need the corporate dollars or the governmental dollars. We don’t need the advertising models. We don’t have to do things how they were done before. We can have grassroots projects that support the network, and we can have networks that make ethical architectural decisions that do not exploit the users.
We need networks built that embed economic freedom, but also that embed human rights, that bake human rights in from the base layer because nobody else is going to do it for us. The governments are not enforcing our humans rights, they could give a toss about them. The corporations are not enforcing our human rights, they could give a toss about them. And so when we came up with the idea in 2020 to create Panquake, it was the result of many conversations I had with Julian and other high profile whistleblowers. Conversations where we had bemoaned to each other for years, the ills that were going on and how swift the decline was, and how there needed to be ethical alternatives. And we finally decided, even though we didn’t have anything but ourselves to do it with, that we were going to take the leap, and we were going to create an application that would bake human rights in from the base layer. For us, that’s freedom of expression, freedom of communication, freedom of association and freedom of speech.
And so I got together my young Gen-Z daughter and my old boomer Mum and I said, ‘how do we develop something that is good for everybody, not just for my generation, or my friends, but will work for you guys as well?’ Because we don’t want to exclude human beings from a platform that we want to build for the betterment of all human beings. And together, my boomer Mum and my Gen-Z daughter came up with the name Panquake and came up with the design.
“We need networks built that embed economic freedom, but also that embed human rights, that bake human rights in from the base layer because nobody else is going to do it for us.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
So that is how we created what I’m going to show you now.
Here we go. Here’s Panquake. Here’s the Panquake UI on laptop. So we did a big UI-Reveal last year and we talked everyone through our design and all the particulars of it, and the cool new functionality that we had invented to really take the shackles off of people, really to destroy the filterverse. To prevent people being constricted by a network. Prevent them being unable to get their messages out to the world, and make sure that they weren’t receiving manipulative data coming back in. We like to call it next-generation messaging technology because it’s for a better future without the sins of the past.
So what is it? It’s a short messaging system. It’s not a Signal. It’s not a WhatsApp. It’s not an SMS platform. It is somewhere you can write short messages that you intend to be made public, and that you want to have a cryptographic proof on a blockchain to prove that your message has been sent, that it has been submitted and processed and seen. It’s a P2P network. We don’t sit in the middle, it’s not a centralized system.
“Personally, I believe in user-supported networks. User-supported networks can enrich the platform, the platform owners, the platform contributors and the users alike. We’ve seen it with Substack. We’ve seen it with many other projects that have spawned successfully based on a user-supported model. That means we don’t need the corporate dollars or the governmental dollars. We don’t need the advertising models. We don’t have to do things how they were done before.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
Users submit their messages to each other. Users then form federations and process block transactions. The content that they submit is the transaction. And of course, the network itself is decentralized.
So we wanted it to have a really sleek, cool, intuitive, easy to use interface, and we’ve definitely achieved that. We wanted it to be high-tech but also super transparent. And obviously that’s where the blockchain comes in.
So Panquake is a layer-one blockchain and it's what I call a non-financialized blockchain. It doesn’t have a token associated with it. The transactions on the block aren’t movements of funds. There are no financial transactions recorded at all on the Panquake blockchain. Instead, as I mentioned, content – particularly text content – is recorded as transactions. And then moderation practices of the network are also recorded as transactions. So not just content but also interaction. You follow someone, you get a cryptographic proof you followed them. You unfollow them, there’s a cryptographic proof for that too.
“We like to call it next-generation messaging technology because it’s for a better future without the sins of the past.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
That means that you can be sure that we are not manipulating your followers, that we are not manipulating your interactions with other users, and subsequently your network metrics are provably true. You don’t have to trust what we say, you can see it for yourself. And so can the world. So this is not about DM’s. This is not about secrets. This is about provable reach for content that you intend to be public.
Of course we didn’t just want it to be a privacy-focused, human rights-focused platform, even though that’s where our heart is and it’s the most important thing we do. We also recognize that people want fun new stuff. So we came up with a bunch of fun new stuff. There’s ethical gamification features, I say ethical because they’re capped to make sure that you can participate with just a few minutes of platform use a day. We’re discouraging platform addiction. But the gamification unlocks features that allow users to get additional reach and additional interactions with other users in ways that are really positive.
And of course, really important to us, we don’t have any advertising. There’s no ability to pay more money to get more reach on Panquake. There’s no paid boosting of content, nothing like that, and it’s a grassroots-funded effort.
So I guess that leads me into explaining a little bit more about the story of Panquake. So, like I said, we had the idea October of 2020, and we didn’t have any money. We didn’t have any equipment. We didn’t have a business. We didn’t have anything we needed to create Panquake, really, other than determination and great relationships with a network of activists that we’ve worked with on multiple campaigns over the years.
“There’s no ability to pay more money to get more reach on Panquake.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
But it turns out that’s really all we needed. My mother and daughter having come up with the name Panquake, we went to register Panquake.com and discovered it would cost us $2,000. I begged my parents to lend us the money. They lent us the money for the domain, we built the website ourselves, and we put together a web event, a live stream event to our combined social media audiences to present this idea that, ‘hey we want a social media platform that we can trust, and that you can trust, and that won’t capture your data and won’t sell it.’
So what we envisioned was a network where user account data would be stored, encrypted on the user's device. As I mentioned, we’re not a centralized service, so we don’t store your account data for you. We don’t store anything for you. We have an IPFS integration, so we don’t even store your media for you. We’re not looking to store or monetize anything. All data is to the maximum possible extent, excluded from our network. Even data that any normal website would want to have just to have website metrics, we optionally exclude as well.
We don’t capture any geographic location data, we don’t fingerprint browsers, or anything like that. We really have taken this to the extreme in terms of putting a data wall between ourselves and the users, but still providing users with the functionality that they need in the application to be able to perform their task.
And so in January of 2021 we had our big web event. We launched a crowdfunding page. We said, ‘Okay we need $50,000 to set up an international business in a jurisdiction away from U.S. jurisdiction, where we’ve got a really fair shot of them not being able to get their hands on the business entity that underlies this project, and to begin, take a couple of months to do some serious planning and then look to bring on devs to start the application build.
“We have an IPFS integration, so we don’t even store your media for you. We’re not looking to store or monetize anything. Every, all data is to the maximum possible extent, excluded from our network. Even data that any normal website would want to have just to have website metrics, we optionally exclude as well.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
We thought it would take us about six weeks of campaigning to get that $50,000, we instead obtained it in twenty days. In twenty days, with nothing but our own voices. To date Panquake has had a zero dollar advertising spend, zero dollar PR spend. It’s been completely a word-of-mouth campaign. And we have had... in our first year, we had over three million hits to the Panquake.com website. And we’ve had three thousand six hundred people donate to the Panquake campaign. So that was obviously a huge game changer for us to get that kind of level of support, and it being totally by word-of-mouth showed us that, hey this is something people really, really, really want.
So in February to May 2021, we started planning, really carefully, our build. I am a commercial software development manager by trade, and a software delivery manager, so this is not something that’s foreign to us. So we did our planning and we brought on our first devs in June of 2021, and they began coding the application.
“We don’t capture any geographic location data, we don’t fingerprint browsers, or anything like that. We really have taken this to the extreme in terms of putting a data wall between ourselves and the users, but still providing users with the functionality that they need in the application to be able to perform their task.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
In August, October and December 2021, our first major proof of concepts were achieved, which means we networked our first computers together P2P (peer-to-peer). We proved, which actually at that time, people were quite skeptical about whether we’d be able to create encrypted data stores on user devices, but we actually proved that we could. So that was another huge step. And by February 2022, we had a functioning interface in place.
So. Moving into 2022, we did our big UI Reveal in April, which was rapturously received, frankly, by the audience, because the design is so unique. And if you’re keen on checking that out, you’ll find full UI Reveal videos and also some technical deep-dive videos and presentation on the Panquake.com website.
In July, we previewed our mobile first app design, and in October we obtained our delivery funding. Still no corporate money, no government money at all.
February of this year we started hiring our service team, bringing on a customer support manager and a technical support manager. Started setting up our internal systems to enable us to be able to support this product post-Beta release. Because it’s one thing to build a cool app, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to adequately support our customers, and to follow through on service delivery, as well as the application functionality itself. It’s really important for us to do right by them.
So in terms of our team, right now we’ve got twenty-nine people working on our team, a mix of paid full-time and part-time contractors, and also a bunch of original volunteers that have been around since the beginning working on this with us. Every single day we have team members working together, across four continents and ten countries. We have seventeen public figures who have privately had demos of the Panquake application, and have endorsed us publicly. And really, our team means the world to me. They just give and give and give. They are amazing. They are how we’ve been able to do all of this on such a tiny budget by comparison to what most people would have.
“…it’s one thing to build a cool app, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to adequately support our customers, and to follow through on service delivery, as well as the application functionality itself. It’s really important for us to do right by them.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
In terms of the problems that we’re looking to solve, everyone knows how dissatisfied social media users are right now. So we really did our homework in late 2020, we for several months canvassed social media users, and said, ‘okay we know this is broken, how... what… would you like to see fixed?’ And we came up with the obvious, like no shadow-banning obviously. No one likes being gaslit by the platform. But also things like not having auto-play on videos, and not having your page randomly reload, so it can shove some content it decides that you should see in front of your eyeballs, instead of what you’re actually trying to look at on your timeline. And of course the biggie, no paid advertising, no selling user data. So these are all solutions provided by Panquake.
This project has so many unique selling propositions that we can barely fit them onto one page. And here is just some of what we’re doing: No cookies, at all. No tracking, at all. No Google integrations, at all. No Facebook or Twitter integrations, instead we rely on independent projects like Nitter, we have a Nitter integration, we have Invidious integrations. When you’re viewing big-tech social media content on Panquake, it’s being rinsed through third party privacy services. When you’re uploading media into Panquake, it’s going out to IPFS and then that IPFS address is what’s going into the block. So again, no storing of data which means no selling data.
We are currently hosted in Iceland, though we have a huge decentralized network of organizations that we trust around the world who will participate in serving connections to Panquake. And probably right there at the very bottom on the right hand side is the real ethos of Panquake. Our users are our customers, they’re not our product, and that is what makes us fundamentally different.
Just bringing this all back to Julian, and his calls for alternatives, and his warnings that we needed to be a part of building a different future. I hope that in this presentation now you know why we’ve created Panquake, and you have some idea of what Panquake is. But Panquake shouldn’t be the only solution, and isn’t the only solution. We need decentralized projects all around the world acting on ethics, and making choices that place people above profit. And so, I call on you all to make your own Panquake, because the world needs more Panquake.
“[This] is the real ethos of Panquake. Our users are our customers, they’re not our product, and that is what makes us fundamentally different.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
I have no idea how much of your time I’ve taken up. But I’m very interested to hear any questions that you have, or anybody that wants to ask me anything, very happy to answer you. As I mentioned, there’s a ton more information about our project available out there on the web, so feel free to go check it out. And I’m just thrilled to see the efforts that the Monero team have put into this conference really bear fruition. It looks absolutely beautiful down there, and I really wish I was there with you.
Do we have a stream mod able to share any questions? Oh cool, wow so sorry, I just found you. I was stuck on the other chat. Okay. I’m going to go from bottom to top here.
Question: Is joining Panquake the best way to support our project?
Well what you can do is sign up for the Beta. So I didn’t really get into too much of the technicals, but I’ll just give you some. So we use a proof-of-authority model. We have multiple trust layers of trusted nodes in the network where we allow the connections, the known connections between known trusted people to create stepping stones by which we can build out the trusted core of the network, and then of course users can successfully process transactions and earn trust. There’s a whole bunch of failsafes around this. It’s really a whole other presentation in and of itself, but we, in our first iteration - it’s a multi-iterative release process - in our first iteration we are releasing our Beta product to the first five thousand vetted Beta users. So if you would like to be one of the first five thousand people to get to use Panquake, bearing in mind that the public will still be able to see and interact with Panquake data, and we have a bunch of interoperability features as well, so that we can also send and receive data to other decentralized DApp projects, then you can do so at Panquake.com/5000, and that is what will get you into the Beta. In our second iteration, we allow our Beta users to invite a limited number of people who they trust and know and can vouch for, into the networks as well. In our third iteration, our full public release, that’s when the floodgates open and anybody in the world can make a Panquake account. But it’s important to us that we actually scale properly, and that we, we don’t want to be the big fizz-bang that’s spends a bunch of money on marketing, and tries to get in five million users in two months, and then no one’s ever heard about it in six months time. We’re trying to organically grow in a measured way over a period of time, an organic network, rather than a whiz-bang-flash network.
Question: Suzie, the project is wonderful, your dedication is amazing. Please comment more on the proof-of-concept, specifically on scalability.
What I just talked to you about is around scalability. So it’s a lot easier for us to build a network that is sustainable if we have incremental growth, and so that’s a big part of what that’s about. And also because to me the service delivery is as important as the product itself. I’m absolutely aware that a huge amount of the problems that people have been facing with social media are not just about the exploits in the application that damage users, but actually the conduct of the businesses who own and operate the social media platforms.
So we are going to vast lengths to make sure that when you deal with customer service at Panquake, you’re dealing with a human being, you’re not dealing with a robot. You’re not getting automated email responses. You are actually having someone who cares about you, interact with you. We have live-chat functions. We’ve got all types of systems that are not AI-based systems. I want to be very clear about this, there is no… your timeline inside Panquake is content produced by the people you elected to follow, in time-linear order. That’s all your timeline is. It’s not what was considered to be of more value than something else, or whatever else. You see what you choose to see, and similarly in our customer service systems and everything else, those are also organic systems too. Because we believe that the old school way of doing customer service is actually the best way. In some ways, we’re kind of going back to the future. Anyone who’s had to deal with AI customer service, it’s a friggin' nightmare.
Proof of concepts around scalability - probably our Chief Security Advisor, Sean O’Brien, who’s one of the most amazing security and privacy gurus on the planet, you’ll find plenty of his content on Panquake.com, is more the person to talk about this because he’s a lot more focused, his time is more focused on infrastructure, whereas my time is more focused on product. But scalability, a big part of that is the number of people in the decentralized network obviously contributing latent resources and contributing to network performance.
“So we are going to vast lengths to make sure that when you deal with customer service at Panquake, you’re dealing with a human being, you’re not dealing with a robot. You’re not getting automated email responses. You are actually having someone who cares about you, interact with you.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
I’m just trying to catch up with the rest. Sorry if I’m now running overtime. I’m so sorry I only just found the questions at the end.
So this is the thing, Panquake isn’t intended, actually, to be a Twitter or Facebook replacement. If you go and look at our UI, you’ll see it’s completely different. It’s a completely different design. We, from the ground up, engineered it. It’s actually a set of drag and drop panels on a fully customizable user dashboard. So our users can elect what part of the UI should appear in what place, depending on what functions are the most important to them. And then there’s a zillion customization features to that as well, so that you can make it as yours as you want it to be.
I would say we’re like the opposite of Twitter in every single way in terms of how we, at an architectural level, are completely different than Twitter, how we are in terms of our interface and the flexibility of it, is completely different than Twitter, and certainly our internal systems are completely different to Twitter as well.
And this is so lovely, everyone thanking me. I really appreciate just the opportunity to even be here.
Question: The protected volume on Panquake seems unimaginably huge, if I’m reading the intent correctly, in terms of transaction number and store size.
Well I would definitely disagree there because we don’t have a whole bunch of fluff going in. Because we’re not storing content on chain, all we’re storing is an IPFS address. And the content itself is being submitted as text only. So I guess eventually we will end up with a sizable blockchain if we have a large enough number of users over a large enough number of years, but not more so than other networks. In fact I would expect it to be significantly lighter than Steem, for example. We’re not trying to store whole blog posts or anything like that, it is a short messaging system. So I’m not really particularly concerned around the transaction weight.
Actually someone’s saying that the donation methods only show credit card. That’s not correct. There’s actually a sub-menu on Panquake.com called Crypto, and you’ll find you can donate via Monero or anything there, but in terms of donations, I mean I guess I should be saying ‘please donate to us,’ and sure we appreciate it if you do, but Panquake is already a foregone conclusion financially, it’s coming no matter what.
Panquake vs. Mastodon is definitely not a versus because we are interoperable with the entire Fediverse. Every single Fediverse project is going to benefit from Panquake having users that contribute content to the Fediverse. That means that we will be able to receive content from and import content to Fediverse applications. So if you find that you prefer Mastodon, it’s no skin off our nose. And if you prefer Panquake to Mastodon, it will be no skin off Mastodon’s nose either.
Portability of content too, is also something that’s really important to me, rather than portability of identities as people like to tend towards these days.
Do I think that decentralized tech will overcome the rise in authoritarianism? You know, I really hope so, and it’s certainly why I’m dedicating my life to it. Ultimately, like I said it’s a numbers game. If we get the users, we keep pushing the Fediverse to a bigger and bigger and bigger size. That’s why I say that Panquake is not the only project, we need more Panquakes. I want as many Panquakes as possible. The greater number of projects, the greater chance of success. The greater number of users who are educated and attracted to solutions like this, the greater chance of success.
“Panquake shouldn’t be the only solution, and isn’t the only solution. We need decentralized projects all around the world acting on ethics, and making choices that place people above profit. And so, I call on you all to make your own Panquake, because the world needs more Panquake.” - Panquake Founder and Chief Product Officer, Suzie Dawson
I think seeing other people as competition is an inherent flaw, and there are some seriously monopolistic practices going on between big-tech platforms right now, which I consider to be highly toxic and to the detriment of humanity. Panquake does not see anybody as opposition or competition. We just want to do things differently and we want to work with other people who are doing things differently as well.
Okay I think that’s about it.
Okay, thank you all for having me so much, I really appreciate it. And I hope to see you again next year.
[End of transcript]
Last month Panquake Chief Security Advisor, Sean O’Brien, appeared on Monero Talk with the host and organizer of the Monerotopia conference, Douglas Tuman. O’Brien and Tuman talked in great length about where social media is headed as privacy technology continues to advance, and the critical role Panquake will play in the near future.
If these messages resonated with you, if you feel heartened to know that there are people working hard to tackle some of the most difficult problems we face in this day and age… then please share this post :)
If you haven’t already, you can apply to join the Panquake BETA at this link
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