The Chinese government has been removing criticism of its coronavirus response from apps like Weibo, the local equivalent of Twitter. But before it can, that content is being saved, decentralized and highlighted thanks to Arweave’s permaweb. Today it’s announcing another $8.3 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures and Coinbase Ventures.
Arweave has developed a new type of blockchain based on Moore’s Law of the declining cost of data storage. Users pay upfront for a hundred years of storage at less than a cent per megabyte, and the interest that accrues will cover the dwindling storage cost forever. More than one million pieces of data are now stored on the permaweb, and nearly 200 apps have been developed.
That includes perma-apps like WeiBlocked, which crawls Weibo for content likely to be censored. It indexes these posts and decentralizes them in the storage of hundreds of Arweave nodes operated around the world. WeiBlocked later checks back to see if the content has been censored, and then highlights them on its permaweb site you can access from a standard web browser. “By censoring it, it puts it out of the control of the censor,” says Arweave founder Sam Williams.
It’s like the Streisand Effect in product form. The act of censorship actually causes the sensitive content to become increasingly visible. The more the Chinese government tries to hide information about Dr. Li Wenliang, an early coronavirus whistleblower who was pressured into silence by Chinese police and later died of the sickness, the more attention it receives. Williams tells me he’s excited that WeiBlocked is “Putting the censorship protection of the network into practice.”
Funding the immutable future
The potential to become the unmutable layer of the internet attracted the new $8.3 million in funding just four months after Arweave raised its last $5 million from Andreessen Horowitz, USV and Multicoin Capital. Along with video chat apps, Arweave is one of the startups benefiting from the unfortunate ripple effects of the tragic coronavirus.