IPFS lead explains how malicious files are eliminated from its network

Decentralized ecosystems still need a way to deal with nefarious files.

The InterPlanetary File System, or IPFS, helps decentralize the internet by making files available across multiple locations instead of through a single centralized point of failure. What happens if someone reports a problematic IPFS file, however? Dietrich Ayala, ecosystem lead for IPFS, explained the process:

“Let’s say there’s a URL, or an IPFS content ID as we call them — there’s an IPFS address that we have identified to be malicious or dangerous somehow,” Ayala told Cointelegraph.

If this sort of problem were to occur on the standard centralized internet, the URL would likely be added to a blacklist and ultimately be made inaccessible by the server hosting the site’s relative files. Google, in collaboration with other internet players, carries a list of malware-infected or malicious URLs and files. Adding items to that list often proves difficult, however, based on false negatives and other issues, Ayala explained. “There’s a number of problems with centralized control over that list,” he explained. 

He believes that open-source social media platform Mastodon exhibits one potential solution to this issue. “Mastodon is an example where node operators have decided how they want to filter information that they think is incorrect or bad or dangerous to the audience of people that run on a given — what they call — pub,” Ayala explained. 

In short, Mastodon breaks down management into smaller segmented bits, therefore removing centralized control while also allowing for granular areas of focused consensus. 

“I think that we’re going to see that same style of filtering in either IPFS nodes, or through pubsub, where nodes want to communicate, coordinate, and share information about bad addresses,” Ayala said. The word “bad,” can also be subjective, however, contingent on a number of factors, including varying region-specific regulations, he added. 

Ayala mentioned coordinated block lists and safe lists as methods of dealing with malicious URLs in the IPFS network. “We have a group at Protocol Labs that is with some folks from Medium and other media entities that have a long experience and history of working in this area around content filtering and identifying malicious content or unsafe content,” Ayala explained. IPFS has a specialized unit to help node operators maintain the control they need, while keeping up with technology growth, he added.

“It’s a really difficult problem, and I think we can see the challenge in centralized systems today as they’re trying to figure out how to best moderate content,” Ayala said. 

Crypto YouTubers in particular saw the bad side of centralization in 2020. Many top crypto influencers have had their accounts banned on the platform for varying periods of time. 

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