Damus, a Twitter-like client app built to be compliant with the decentralized protocol Nostr, was banned in China for publishing “illegal content” just 48 hours after it became available for download on the Apple App Store.

Damus announced the App Store approval on Twitter on Jan. 31. The app has created a lot of excitement among crypto and privacy die-hards on social media, thanks to its promises of privacy, decentralization, and censorship resistance.

Jack Dorsey, the Twitter cofounder who backed Nostr with a donation of $240, 000 in Bitcoin, described the launch of the application as “a milestone for open protocols.” Nostr is already available for android devices on the Google Play Store, via the Amethyst app.

The latest approval means that Damus, which quickly rose to number 10 on the list of most downloaded apps on the Apple App Store, is now available as an app to users of iOS devices such as iPhone and Mac computers.

Banning Damus

However, authorities in China are not impressed. They banned the application hardly 48 hours after it went live on the App Store. Damus triggered huge interest among users in China, where the government maintains a chokehold on the flow of information.

As of writing, it had reached a total of nealy 8,000 downloads in mainland China, second only to the U.S. at 23,700. In Hong Kong, downloads hit 4,200, more than double those of the UK and Canada. Altogether, downloads of the app totaled 56,000 worldwide.

“We are writing to notify you that your application per demand from the CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China), will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China,” Apple wrote to Damus, which shared the response on Twitter.

Apple said “apps that solicit, promote, or encourage criminal or clearly reckless behavior will be rejected.” According to the CAC, Damus violates provisions of a security law on Internet-based information “with attribute of public opinions or capable of social mobilization.”

Damus will still be available in regions outside of China. Earlier on Feb. 2, Bitcoiner and Jan3 CEO Samson Mow predicted that, “Damus [is] going to be removed from iOS App Store in China soon.”

What is Nostr?

To understand Damus, it is important to first have an idea of the protocol that supports the app. As MetaNews previously reported, Nostr is an open protocol that its developers say is able to “create a censorship-resistant global ‘social’ network once and for all.”

The protocol allows users to create posts (as they would tweets), “like posts, follow someone or unfollow them, retweet/repost,” according to a post on Github. Normally the term ‘post’ or ‘note’ is used to refer to creating a post on Nostr.

Fiatjaf, the creator of Nostr, says the protocol excels at ‘broadcasting’ stuff. Besides social networking, the developer said things like forums, Reddit-like apps, prediction markets, marketplaces of physical and digital goods, and others fall into the “broadcasting” category.

Nostr has been used to build a variety of applications, including a chess engine called Chesstr and a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO. Chesstr is a new virtual chessboard that allows users “to play chess with a friend anywhere in the world.”

Users of the Nostr protocol are all identified by a public key (a long list of random letters and numbers). Such as the one Jack Dorsey displays on his public profile on Twitter. Every post is signed and clients, or user-facing apps, validate the signatures. One such client is Damus.

Damus ‘your very own Twitter’, says developer

Created by Bitcoin Lightning developer William Casarin, Damus is an app for iPhone, iPad, and MacOS that implements the Nostr decentralized protocol. The app allows users to post notes, tag other users, and engage with notes by reposting, liking, or replying to them.

Damus claims to support Twitter-like social networking, as well as show messages from channels. To create an account, users do not need a phone number, email or name, it says. Messages are encrypted end-to-end and you can tip your friend’s posts with Bitcoin.

“Built on open internet protocols, there is no platform that can ban or censor you. You are in control of your data and speech,” Damus says on its website. “Messages are distributed via decentralized relays. No need to run any infrastructure and no single point of

The developer says the app is “your very own Twitter for your friends or business.” At the time of writing, however, the Web version of Damus was down “because there is someone trying to exploit browser loopholes to steal private keys.”

“I would not recommend using a web client at this time. Damus iOS is not affected,” Casarin said on the site.

Whereas big tech has been criticized for violating user privacy through use of cookies to compile data for sale to advertisers, Damus writes on the App Store:

“Data Not Collected. The developer does not collect any data from this app. Damus doesn’t store any information about you other than the posts which you make, which are published to the damus relay as well other relays if configured.

In contrast, the official Twitter app disclosure says the network collects data that includes things such as purchases, contact Information, browsing history, usage data, location, user content, identifiers, search history, diagnostics and other data.

Risks of decentralization

Damus’ launch on the AppStore has not been without its fair share of problems. In some geographic locations, users complained the application was not working at all.

Decentralization tends to generate incredible fear, the creation of a world without authority where bad actors can carry out their nefarious activities. One Twitter user asked: How does it [Nostr] shut down accounts posting things like child porn if everyone can do what they want?

In responses, Nostr pseudonymous creator Fiatjaf, said: “There are no such thing as accounts, only keys and events. Events are published to relays. Each relay decides who and what can publish to them.”

“Relays are free to censor child porn or anything else they want. Users can choose from where to read and can easily exclude bad relays,” he added.

Nostr is one among a number of emerging decentralized social networks intent on giving users both the personal and financial freedom to act according to their conscience rather than under political instruction.

Over the years, key figures in Bitcoin and web3, entities predominantly on the receiving end of U.S. government intrusion, have either disapprovingly reassessed the monopoly of dominant social networks or started to delink their relationships.

This article is originally from MetaNews.


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