Blockchain: From Bitcoin to news

by ECPMF staff

Blockchain, the method behind the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, allows for the transfer of data in a safe way without any central control point (like banks are for money). It might also pave new ways for journalism.

Blockchain meeting_Kaufholz ECPMF chair Henrik Kaufholz participated in a recent blockchain-related meeting among journalists and IT professionals in Madrid. From left to right: Carlos Kuchkovsky, CTO New Digital Business at BBVA; Ángel Hernández, CTO Security & Blockchain IBM; Astyanax Kanakakus, CEO & co-founder Norbloc; Mario de la Iglesia, translator; Henrik Kaufholz; Úrsula O'Kuinghttons, journalist & co-founder OléChain; Alberto Gómez Toribio, CTO Blockchain Barrabes Biz; Alberto Barreiro, Chief Experience Officer, PRISA. Photo courtesy of Covadonga Fernández, OléChain

On 23 January 2017, 60 journalists and IT developers met at the Medialab Prado in downtown Madrid to present and discuss a brand new tool for reporters: blockchain journalism.

It was the first international meeting on the subject, and media workers and consumers should certainly pay attention. Blockchain journalism could change the future of the media industry and the journalistic profession.

It sounds very technical – and it is. This innovation functions as a book of digital events shared among millions of computers in the world. It features the ability to transfer and store confidential information in a secure, permanent and anonymous space.

It’s easy to get started. The software is free, as Linux Foundation created Hyperledger to promote it.

Inherent anonymity

One of the notable features of blockchain journalism is safety, which is also at the core of the activities of the ECPMF. Blockchain is supposed to guarantee safe publishing and financing of articles, and to give anonymity to authors and sources.

The process would make it impossible for outside institutions like security services to identify those who were involved in the writing.

“We at the ECPMF will follow the development of blockchain journalism with great interest and also involve other NGOs”, said ECPMF chair Henrik Kaufholz, who participated in a panel discussion at the Madrid meeting.

It’s certainly interesting for all NGOs working with safety of journalists and press freedom.”

Blockchain is hot stuff in the IT industry. Ángel Hernández, CTO for security and blockchain at IBM Spain, is in charge of close to 200 developers working with activities based on blockchain. And his department is just one of several at IBM.

“I’ve never seen so many smart and dedicated people as I see in the development of blockchain right now”, said Astyanax Kanakakis, founder and managing director of Norbloc.

Alberto Barreiro, from PRISA (the largest media group in Spain, which also has a notable presence in Latin America) told the seminar that they will start media projects with this technology, along with Alberto Gomez Toribio, from Barrabes.

Add to this thousands of developers in the financial industry all over the world – the Spanish bank BBVA, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo , IBM, Intel, Airbus, Cisco and Swisscom, just to name a few.

Happening now

You already find journalism using the blockchain principle. There are platforms like Steemit  and Decent, which already reward journalists or bloggers with cryptocurrency. Media organisation Thomson Reuters is studying how to implement blockchain in its business.

Not to mention the initiators of the event in Madrid: The founders of OléChain, Covadonga Fernandéz and Ursula O’Kuinghttons, two experienced journalists, think that blockchain journalism will change the media industry the same way that Google, Facebook, Twitter or Amazon have done.

Fernández and O'Kuinghttons point out that the meeting is the first step of a project whose horizon is longer term for this endeavour. They will continue working to make the meeting an annual event, because “if the media want to remain... global actors, they have to articulate strategy with operators from all sectors".