Captain’s Log. Stardate – 301 753.4
Today is #DogeDay, a day when an animal rights organization, a privacy and safety-focused nonprofit, and a benevolent Clubhouse #MemeforGood cult come together to drop an “NFT for Good.” The NFT shall forever be known as “The Prelonian Doge.” There will never be another NFT like this, but that’s not the only thing that makes it so unique.
Before you go ahead and dismiss this as noise among the thousands of NFTs being dropped daily onto the internet for gain. Here is how it all started, followed by How it is going.
What do you get when you place diverse and talented individuals that are extremely starved for human connection into an audio-only social platform and add brilliance, creativity, empathy, commitment, passion, love for technology, together with connecting across space and time? A gateway to a metaverse.
I came to Clubhouse looking for like-minded individuals, escaping the isolation of one year of lockdown, hoping for human connections while continuing my quest for security in emerging technologies that I have been observing for the past few years.
As an information security researcher, the emergence of a spatial audio-based application was fascinating. Soon, this became an ecosystem catering to all walks of life, countries, and backgrounds for humans to connect and exchange ideas and knowledge and collaborate. The first question on my mind was, “what could possibly go wrong?” For those unfamiliar with it, Clubhouse is an audio-only, invite-only social network where you can create rooms and users can gather to talk about various topics. The app gained popularity when the #DogeDay inventor, Elon Musk, came to Clubhouse on January 31st, interviewed the CEO of Robinhood, Vlad Tenev, asking questions about why the stock trading app had restricted users from buying so-called meme stocks.
I stuck around to observe and investigate the cybersecurity and privacy issues that existed or emerged with this new phenomenon. The spatial audio and possibility of such data potentially being used for Natural Language Processing (NLP) research made it even more enjoyable and more concerning. I was looking for ongoing Artificial Intelligence (AI) research that intersects with immersive technologies, like spatial audio, that could positively impact the XRSI Privacy & Safety Framework that XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) is creating. I founded this nonprofit in 2019 with the mission to help build safe and inclusive digital ecosystems.
As I created my first room, “XR Safety & Privacy – Should we Care?”, an active Clubhouse user, Sarah Sitkin, joined the room and asked what I thought of Prelon. Having no knowledge of the concept and out of curiosity, I followed her to the House of Prelon (HoP). There, I was welcomed, cherished, and given so much help. They cautioned me about the dangers of Clubhouse and the core ethos of this room, which later turned into a club and now spans 15 time zones and numerous languages. I will never forget the description who gave me Dao Brock, another Prelonian (a term referring to members of House of Prelon) with a majestic deep voice.
I told the Prelonians if their help materialized, I will join the cult. The very next week, on February 22nd, as I continued to spend most of my time with Prelonians, the help materialized. I found myself unpacking the security incident that included public disclosure of all the recordings being streamed live. I moderated an intense room for five hours where we performed technical analysis and mitigated misinformation from spreading. For instance, we tackled the false idea that this was an act of a Chinese Spy or something nefarious like that. While the disclosure turned out to be a research project meant for turning iPhone-only app to potentially android as well, it did cause many concerns among the Clubhouse community. The very next day, I dawned the robes ( a ceremony that involves temporarily changing the profile picture to Prelon holding the Doge/Prelon Meme). To make it official, I even gave an initiation speech.
This mysterious benevolent cult-but-not-a-cult is a goldmine of secret do-gooders, many of them I have come to know personally and proud to call them “heroes of the Internet.” They genuinely care about human well-being within digital ecosystems like Clubhouse and beyond. Prelon is an ever-evolving social experiment that simultaneously explores humor, virality, meme culture, collaboration, and safety. The Prelonians educate Clubhouse communities about digital hygiene, privacy, safety, and ethical issues that stem from lack of adequate security, such as government surveillance. The best part is that the whole community has consciously spread awareness around these issues with satire, humor, and memes, making knowledge sexy and complex topics digestible and appealing to learn.
As I continued to hang with the Prelonians, I realized this was not a normal phenomenon but a true communion of thinkers, brilliant minds, innovators, loving, kind, gentle artists, along with some true badasses who came together simply for the love of humanity and dreamed of a better world. This “Meme for Good” benevolent cult has found a fun way to educate new users on the risky aspects of Clubhouse and slowly become an organic immune system for the app itself.
One of the many artists I met was the Animal Facing Left club owner Idan Chemony, who frequently drew tiny little cute animals live on Clubhouse to create awareness for Animals Rights, while another artist Uyanga supplied the music.
Today, on April Fool’s day, Prelonians come together with AFL and XRSI to drop an NFT to support Animal’s rights and Privacy & Safety. This NFT is meant for the reason Prelon Exists, the one and only Elon Musk. No matter who is the owner of this NFT, the sale proceeds will go to XRSI and Animal Facing Left nonprofits.
The House of Prelon has been a resource for so many great moments, not just for work, but for watching moving together, playing video games together, achieving a flow state for creative work. Some even have Friday parties and room hopping.
Despite its popularity, I have learned that the Clubhouse app lacks some essential privacy and security protections. My most recent discovery is a vulnerability that allowed a malicious attacker to gain elevated privileges and take over a room as a ghost moderator, yelling, screaming, and trolling a room full of people without permission. Often, this has led to club owners ending the room.
I sent an email to the Clubhouse security team to which the Clubhouse founder, Rohan Seth, responded timely with some plausible explanation. I have not yet been fully provided with a technical description of why this is happening to some rooms and whether the issue is fixed or not. And so, my quest for security and privacy research continues.
As Animals Facing Left, House of Prelon, and XRSI drop this NFT today, I encourage you to support these efforts by promoting, sharing, liking, and bidding for this one-of-a-kind NFT for Good, “The Prelonian Doge.” And, if you happen to be a Clubhouse goer, stop by the House of Prelon to meet all the incredible minds that gather together under the umbrella of Prelon. Here, people reminisce about when people did not con each other, exploit each other for personal or professional gain, just like the time before Elon came to Clubhouse – A Pre-Elon Era!
About XR Safety Initiative
XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) is a 501(c)(3) worldwide not-for-profit Standards Developing Organization(SDO) that promotes privacy, security, and ethics in immersive environments. XRSI’s mission is to help build safe and inclusive experiences so that XR stakeholders can make informed and pragmatic decisions. XRSI does this by discovering novel cybersecurity, privacy, and ethical risks and proposing potential new solutions to mitigate them. XRSI, being the first such global effort, is uniquely positioned to provide impartial, practical information about XR and Spatial Computing related risks and opportunities to individuals, corporations, universities, government agencies, and other organizations worldwide.