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smART socIal media eCOsytstem in a blockchaiN Federated environment

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ARTICONF (smART socIal media eCOsytstem in a blockchaiN Federated environment)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

Social media platforms are key technologies for next generation connectivity. Social media platforms have the potential to shape and mobilise patterns of communication, practices of exchange and business, creation, learning and knowledge acquisition. Typically, social media are centralised platforms with a single proprietary organisation controlling the network. This poses critical issues of trust and governance over created and propagated content. This is particularly problematic when data breaches are a regular phenomenon at the hands of centralised intermediaries. To address this, we need innovative solutions at the user level (i.e. that of consumers, prosumers, and businesses) and at the level of the underlying social media environment. This will facilitate global reach, improved trust, and decentralised control and ownership.

ARTICONF researches and develops a novel set of trustworthy, resilient, and globally sustainable decentralised social media services. ARTICONF addresses issues of trust, time-criticality and democratisation for a new generation of federated infrastructure, to fulfil the privacy, robustness, and autonomy related promises that proprietary social media platforms have failed to deliver so far. Namely, its goals are to:
1. simplify the creation of open and agile social media ecosystem with trusted participation using a two stage permissioned blockchain;
2. automatically detect interest groups and communities using graph anonymization techniques for decentralised and tokenized decision-making and reasoning;
3. elastically autoscale time-critical social media applications through an adaptive orchestrated Cloud edge-based infrastructure meeting application runtime requirements; and
4. enhance monetary inclusion in collaborative models through cognition and knowledge supply chains.

ARTICONF currently develops four complementary social media use cases to validate its goals with important societal use: crowd journalism with news verification, car sharing, co-creation of financial value with video and smart energy.
During the first year, the consortium investigated the ARTICONF requirements, the initial technical specifications, and defined the architecture based on its representative decentralised social media use cases. At the same time, the exploitation activities identified the commercial assets and defined an initial individual and joint exploitation plan. A market analysis aligned the market position of the project. A key achievement from the European Commission in this area was choosing ARTICONF as the leading partner in defining the European reference architecture for the next generation of decentralised social media platforms. The consortium also analysed the most relevant standardisation bodies and the possibility to incorporate the project findings in existing or in emergent standards. The project website ensures promotion, communication and dissemination activities important during this period, achieved through materials, communication and associated social media channels.

The connections already established by the project with European stakeholders and other European projects present in the Social Media Cluster driven by the European Commission guarantee a significant leadership role in defining a new generation of decentralised and trustworthy social medial applications. The consortium identified several types of stakeholders, such as social media consumers, social media application providers, social media prosumers, social media content holders, community influencers and social media providers. Furthermore, it identified ways and mechanisms for them to benefit from the decentralised social media environment provided by ARTICONF.

Developments in the technical workpackages aim to overcome several technological barriers that SMEs still face. ARTICONF designed a peer-to-peer architecture supported by a blockchain infrastructure (TIC) that supports the requirements of different types of decentralised applications provided by the use cases. The CONF tool enables SMEs to deploy and manage of different types of decentralised applications in the Cloud in a fast and efficient way. They also increase trust in their application services and among users using the permissioned blockchain provided by TIC. TIC also handles and manages a high data variability in a secure way. They discover user roles in social media networks and find relevant communities and interest groups using the SMART tool. Finally, they benefit from the interactive guided analytics to enhance the collaborative sharing economy provided by TAC.

The main results of the first year include prototype open source releases of the four ARTICONF ecosystem tools (TIC, CONF, SMART and TAC) and 17 scientific international publications.
A multidisciplinary team of computer scientists, sociologists, and multi-domain application providers researchs and validates a ubiquitous social media ecosystem and platform called ARTICONF. The goal is to provide a universal backbone for an open and federated platform that accommodates trust, democratisation, and time-critical based QoS requirements with incentivisation opportunities for a large and diverse user base, including consumers, prosumers and business markets. The ARTICONF ecosystem exploits the blockchain technology completely decoupled from the social media applications and their specific runtime environments, and continuously supports them through an agile, integrated and trustful environment with decentralised collaborative models, adaptive infrastructure provisioning, and analytics guided for injecting insights and optimising business costs. The consortium designed ARTICONF to transparently tailor and preserve autonomous and democratic behaviour with respect to anonymization of user identities, rewards tokenisation, dispute solving in collaborative models, and elastic provisioning for time-critical applications. ARTICONF stores transactional activities of anonymised users in blockchain for interoperability, integration, community finding, eliminating bad actors, and providing intelligent insights for guided analytic purposes.

ARTICONF will provide services necessary to build new social media platforms from the ground up, by empowering communities and businesses to construct their own customised social platforms around personal interests. Easily coupled with other similar platforms, this will create a new type of emergent and decentralised federated social media ecosystem that is democratic, trustworthy and performant at large scale. The blockchain and smart contract technologies will maintain trust and verifiability in intra- and cross-platform interactions, while advanced software-defined infrastructure technologies will make optimised use of the virtualized infrastructure, allowing different communities easily deploy their community platforms on public and private Clouds tailored to their specific requirements. A novel semantic framework will ensure portable intra- and cross-platform social media data, interpretable in a range of different contexts for preservation, analysis and visualisation.