Blockchain and journalism: the intersection between blockchain-based technology and freedom of the press

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Veit, Meredith
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Quality journalism is essential to democracy, as it is a means of empowering people with information. Yet, journalists, and press freedom itself, are under threat. The number of journalist assassinations and forced disappearances is increasing as the World Press Freedom Index rankings achingly decline across the board. Most State protection mechanisms are currently insufficient in shielding journalists from escalating violence—irrespective of whether or not these journalists report from a country in peacetime or at war. As a result, technologists have begun developing powerful tools in an effort to ensure that journalists and human rights defenders alike are more prepared in the face of danger. Yet, technological integration as an added safety and security mechanism is far from seamless. This paper critically reviews the new technologies offered to journalists—those that have succeeded and failed—in an attempt to consolidate the lessons learned from both journalistic and technological perspectives. Resultantly, there is a theoretical gap in how the offerings of modern technology, namely blockchain, could serve as an indispensable tool to better protect journalists and the journalistic process, if applied correctly and realistically. This paper examines the convergence of blockchain and journalism; combining theoretical proposals from academia with the pragmatic technological developments underway and ultimately expanding upon the suggestions for potential applications. Furthermore, this paper proposes blockchain-based smart contracts as an innovative tool for combating the high impunity rates for those who commit crimes against journalists—particularly assassinations and disappearances. The author argues that an important use of blockchain could be to establish a journalistic version of a 'last will and testament.' This will ensure that essential stories do not die along with journalists who are assassinated while covering them and that those investigating the murders have greater access to pivotal evidence. However, any and all blockchain-based applications must first be vetted through an anti-techno-solutionist lens to assure that they are the most fitting tool for achieving the aim. Keywords: blockchain, journalism, freedom of the press, technology, smart contracts, techno-solutionism, violence against journalists, decentralization
Second semester University: University of Coimbra. Awarded thesis 2018/2019
technological innovations, technology, journalism, freedom of the press, violence