Civil-Backed News Site Stores Full Article on Ethereum Blockchain

Dec 21, 2018 at 15:00 UTC
Updated Dec 21, 2018 at 16:17 UTC

A U.S. news article has been stored in its entirety onto the ethereum blockchain, in what its writer claims is a world first.

Maria Bustillos, editor with the journalist-owned Popula news site, announced Monday that she had archived an article originally published in Death and Taxes magazine onto the ethereum in full, as well as storing its hash on the IPFS protocol. As a result, the article will be preserved “for as long as the … blockchain and IPFS persist.”

Image via Popula

Bustillos told CoinDesk that the goal of storing news articles irrevocably on a blockchain is one she has been pursuing as far back as 2012–2013, when she began writing about bitcoin.

“Even in those early days it seemed to me that the key benefit of blockchain technology was decentralization, as a means of producing incorruptible records,” she said. “It was immediately evident to me, as a journalist, that this technology could be used to protect speech rights and press freedom.”

Bustillos further noted that in the past, many different libraries or archives have been destroyed both accidentally and deliberately, saying:

“For the first time in human history it might be possible to create absolute receipts, absolute, unassailable, unchangeable, incorruptible records. That would mark an enormous turning point, if people were to value this development at its true value.”

The article was stored with the aid of blockchain journalism startup Civil and its engineers. Civil provided Popula with a grant as it began operations

The process of actually storing the article was carried out using MetaMask, and turned out to be far easier than expected. Bustillos said she was done archiving the article within half an hour.

Going forward, every article published on Popula will be stored on the blockchain, typically about 90 days after publication.

“There are kinks still to work out, a viewer to build, and so on,” she said.

Bustillos emphasized the difference between storing the full text of the article on ethereum and storing a digital signature as a hash on the IPFS network.

“Digital signatures are important, but without absolute full-text archives to a broadly distributed public blockchain that anyone can join, and anyone can download, your work is still vulnerable,” she explained. “But once you’ve written full text to a real blockchain archive, as we are doing, it cannot be erased or corrupted. That difference can’t possibly be overestimated.”

Newspapers image via Shutterstock

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