Blockchain and the Taragis Tattoo Issue: A What-if Scenario

Chelle Louren
Apr 15, 2024

Taragis! Taragis! If there’s one company that’s been dominating the local social media scene this month, it’s none other than the takoyaki franchise Taragis.

On April 1, Japanese snack company Taragis posted on Facebook that it would give away Php 100,000 to anyone willing to tattoo the Taragis logo on their forehead. Someone apparently took the bait. In another post, Taragis appeared to take back its offer, claiming that it was clearly an April Fool’s joke and that the victim should have exercised reading comprehension. Netizens rushed to defend the man, later identified as Mang Ramil. Many companies even offered cash or services to help him out, since Taragis refused to take responsibility for its misinterpreted post.

…or so we thought.

Eventually, the owner of Taragis, Carl Quion, posted a video of himself visiting Mang Ramil to personally hand over the promised Php 100,000. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he shared another video where he came clean and explained that everything that had transpired was actually a well-orchestrated marketing stunt to attract attention to his brand.

April Fools, everyone.

Now consider this — what if the Taragis issue took place in a decentralized social media ecosystem instead of a centralized platform like Facebook? Would there be a difference?

Reimagining the Taragis Incident: Decentralized Social Media Edition

Here are some ways events could play out:

1. A blockchain-based reputation scoring system would incentivize companies and individuals to post quality content. Every account can have a decentralized and verifiable credibility rating that goes up or down depending on the number of likes or dislikes the individual gets. The difference between this and the typical ratings system currently used by centralized platforms is that the account of each person leaving a rating and review would be traceable to their social profile. This would hopefully discourage people from leaving fake reviews because their online identity would be at stake.

In this scenario, downvotes from dismayed users would be reflected in Taragis’ ratings across platforms — from social media to video sharing sites to delivery apps. If this were to happen, the effects of marketing campaigns on the totality of the brand itself would also be more evident, since even if the product tastes good, “problematic” advertising could lead to a lower overall score. Companies would be forced to think twice before attempting controversial marketing stunts out of fear of backlash.

On the flipside, this kind of aggregated ranking could also be abused by haters or exploited by competitors who want to turn the public against a brand through some crafty social engineering.

2. Companies would not be able to censor dissenting comments to cover up the truth, as was pointed out by whistleblower Chonna Mae.

3. People could earn not just from posting the type of content platforms favor, such as viral reels, but also from creating and engaging with all kinds of content. 

Currently, content creators either monetize their content through direct support from their audience (sending stars, buying merch, buying them a coffee, clicking affiliate links, etc.) or through compensation from the platforms for every thousand or so views they receive. 

But what about individuals who contribute insightful comments? What about those who make great content that doesn’t get popular until it gets picked up and remixed by other more popular accounts, often without giving credit to the original creator? What about posts that share useful opinions or information, like this one by Xian Gaza?

For instance, Chonna Mae’s role in the incident led to media exposure and praise from several public figures. 

But imagine if said person’s actual posts could have been directly compensated with tokens of gratitude in the form of digital currency or NFTs?

Great, right? On the other hand, without safeguards in place, this kind of setup might create a commenter economy that lets the random “sawsawero” and the infamous “marites” to get rich by simply making noise to drive engagement.

4. Tokenizing donations and contributions would make them easier to audit. At the height of the Taragis issue, FB user Don Soriano requested help tracking down the donations in cash or in kind pledged by kindhearted companies. 

Netizens happily shared screenshots in the comments section, and after inputting all the info in a spreadsheet, he came up with a total amount of at least Php 790,500. 

Of course, this did not include pledges like unlimited food, free pets, and other less quantifiable things.
For these kinds of situations, a decentralized blockchain would offer the public more transparency. To ascertain the amount of funds coming into an account, you would simply need a blockchain scanner and the individual’s public wallet address. Companies willing to help could either send crypto or mint redeemable coupons for freebies or discounts in the form of NFTs. This would be especially useful if:

  • A poser account pretends that a company’s official account is giving away cash
  • A company deletes or edits the post in the future and denies every making such a promise
  • The contributions or donations need to be recorded and accounted for

In an unexpected turn of events, the CEO of Taragis admitted that the whole issue was nothing but a publicity stunt. As a result, many companies rescinded their offers. But without receipts, how can we tell how many of these pledges had already been claimed before the truth came out?

According to Trade Assistant Secretary Amanda Nograles, Taragis CEO Carlo Quion could be held liable for conducting a marketing promotion without first securing a DTI permit. For such kinds of legal scenarios, a comprehensive, transparent, and easily accessible record would save time and resources when gathering evidence and verifying facts.

5. Crowdfunding would be more efficient. The whole “Dear Kuya in the screenshot, whoever you are, please show up at the nearest branch to claim X amount of cash” could have been streamlined into sending crypto and NFTs directly to the public blockchain wallet address associated with the recipient’s social profile. That would be faster and more effective than informing the staff to keep a lookout for the person with the Taragis tattoo on his forehead.

6. Digital identifiers would make it easier to verify the existence of the person in question. What would have happened in a scenario where the person in the photo wasn’t the real “Mang Ramil'' but an AI-generated fake account?

A quick search brings up several people with the same name. Who is the official Mang Ramil?

Considering how many people have fallen for AI deepfakes these days, it's not hard to imagine a scenario where hundreds are moved to action over the plight of someone who doesn’t even exist. Blockchain-based identifiers for each individual online would give us proof that the person in question is not in fact a scambot, even if the person’s full name or personal details are not made public.

7.l A unified social graph would make the discussion more coherent. The whole fiasco started on Facebook. Evidence proving otherwise was found on Instagram. Exposé videos were shared via Tiktok. How much easier might it have been to figure out what was going on if there was a way to access all relevant content without having to scan each platform one by one? Instead of having silos of content owned by different companies, we could either have an aggregator that compiles data across platforms or an ecosystem with more interoperability.

An example of that is Lens Protocol, which lets you mint your handle for a fee and use it on all connected apps.

This way, if you get a spam message on one app or identify a bad actor, it won’t be hard to pinpoint that person’s online identity across all connected apps. In the case of Taragis, the public might have noticed the ruse much sooner if Mang Ramil’s data from both Instagram and Facebook could have been accessible under a single user handle.

There is of course a flipside to this. The Taragis drama revolved around the lack of accurate information and the quest to uncover the truth. But what about the opposite scenario in which there is simply too much information being shared? 

Such is the subject of the recent lawsuit filed against Meta for allowing streaming giant Netflix to access the private messages of its users for nearly a decade. Without any of us having any idea this was happening behind our backs.

Sharing User Data Without Explicit Consent: The Facebook x Netflix Issue

According to court documents unveiled in the lawsuit against Meta, Netflix used an API to access the contents of Facebook users’ direct messages, which it used to customize ad targeting. The lawsuit claimed that Facebook earned millions of dollars in ad revenue as a result of this agreement with Netflix that infringed on user privacy. Allegedly, Facebook even scrapped its own streaming service, Facebook Watch, for the sake of the partnership with Netflix. As to why they inked this deal, well, the lawsuit claims it’s because Netflix’s co-founder Reed Hastings, joined Facebook's board of directors.

However, Meta's Communications Director Andy Stone, denied these allegations, explaining that the existing deal between Netflix and Meta only lets users share content they watched on the Netflix app directly with their Facebook friends. Whether his statements are true or not, one thing’s for sure: We the public would never have known about this on our own. We wouldn’t have been able to prevent it from happening, either.

Compare that to a decentralized version of social media where anyone can peek into smart contracts and transaction records to discover what the applications we use have been programmed to do. And where we can utilize cryptographic techniques like Zero-knowledge proofs to access the platform while keeping sensitive data safe from prying eyes.

The premise of decentralized social media is more control over everything. The ability to monetize our actions online. The ability to manage what apps get to access our data. The ability to control how much gets shared and with whom. The ability to transact online without worrying that we’re unwittingly giving away personal information that can be used to wipe out the contents of our bank accounts. The ability to rest assured that the platforms we trust won’t one day steal our entire social existence on a whim.

That’s a social media ecosystem worth looking forward to.

Chelle Louren
Web3 writer

Chelle is a freelance writer exploring where emerging tech and real world problems converge. Everything is a story, and she’s here to show that.

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