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Civil tries to create the next generation of journalism with blockchain technology

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Behind the door covered with stickers of an anonymous Brooklyn building in New York, a startup is trying to sell the public a stake in a new business model for the old profession of journalism.

The model is based on the blockchain, better known as the technology behind bitcoin, the virtual currency. But blockchain – the term used for a digital system in which all computers contribute to a secure, permanent and public ledger – has many more applications than a speculative currency. Advocates believe that the power of blockchain can help stimulate a new wave of businesses and organizations, just as the Internet has changed the trade and flow of information.

And one of the industries that could be affected is journalism, which has been damaged in recent decades when the Internet has taken away the monopolies of traditional news.

One of the first companies to push that change is a Brooklyn startup called Civil Media, which launched an ambitious plan last week to kick off what it hopes will be a new journalism economy capable of supporting a new generation of multimedia startups in a time when old and new news is facing a difficult future.

The goal of Civil is to help press agencies to raise funds from readers and investors while providing tools to monetize journalism. In addition, readers who have purchased Civil cryptocurrency tokens, CVL, can "vote" on whether a store is doing its job well and ethically.

"What we are doing with Civil is trying to build a platform that exists for the sole purpose of promoting ethical journalism, to be a home for the independent network of editorial agencies managed and managed individually," said Matt Coolidge, a co-founder of l & # 39; company.

The building that Civil occupies in the Bushwick section of the district is shared by a variety of startups that are part of ConsenSys, a company that is betting blockchain technology – in particular, a blockchain system known as Ethereum – will usher in a new era of innovation.

The goal of Civil is to use Ethereum to create a platform that provides a more direct connection between the work created by journalists and the value it creates for readers.

Given that Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter absorb billions of dollars of advertising revenue that otherwise could go to news, the US media industry continues to suffer layoffs and closures.

Unlike technology giants, Civil "explicitly states from the first day that our primary incentive is to serve ethical journalism," Coolidge said. "We have created rules and a system of checks and balances to ensure that this remains the case."

ConsenSys, founded in October 2014 by Joseph Lubin, who also co-founded Ethereum, funded Civil in October with $ 2.5 million in cash and another $ 2.5 million in services. ConsenSys currently incorporates more than 40 startups aimed at creating a variety of business on Ethereum including online poker, legal agreements and advertising technology.

Image: Matthew Iles
From the right, Civil Media CEO Matthew Iles speaks at an event and listens to Nick Reynolds, an Ethereum engineer at Civil.Civil Media

There are a variety of different blockchain applications, including Ethereum, which has been praised for "smart contracts" that can automate a wide variety of interactions. Civil is built on Ethereum, using the system for a variety of its service offerings, including a way for editors to receive money for licensing their content and a system to ensure that editors act ethically.

Civil is not the only startup that tries to use blockchain technology for journalism. Po.et, founded in February 2018, has a similar mission.

"The path that Po.et is leading towards digital artistic independence can free not only the creators of content, but also media companies, brands and marketers from servitude to particular platforms, publishers and income models", wrote the CEO of Po.et Jarrod Dicker in a blog post.

The Central to Civil mission is what is known as a token, which is a specialized digital currency within Ethereum. In a blog post, managing director and civil co-founder Matthew Iles compared his CVL tokens within the civil system with the US dollar within the US economy.

"The more you participate and contribute, the more you earn," he wrote. "A growing symbolic economy, as a national economy that benefits from the increased production and activity of its participants, often correlates with a strengthened currency".

To kick off that economy, Civil opened the sale of its CVL token last week, offering a value of $ 24 million. The holders of aspiring tokens, who must pass a test, must also commit themselves to contribute and regulate ethical journalism on the platform.

Tokens are meant to create a shared responsibility among all editors of Civil, readers and anyone who is part of the media industry.

Newsrooms have to wager $ 1,000 in CVL when they apply to be enrolled in the civil registry and adhere to a series of journalistic ethics encoded in a document called the Civil Constitution. Token holders who believe that an existing or potential press room violates these values ​​must also wager $ 1000 in token to challenge its ability to appear in the register. Thus, token holders vote for the challenge.

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