Blockchain may help media become more transparent

Blockchain not only eliminates the role of middlemen but also serves the common purpose of bringing out the truth to the forefront and curbs the centralisation of information, writes PULKITA AGARWAL

Before we delve into the underbelly of journalism and new media, it is very crucial to understand how blockchain works. Blockchain technology functions on a distributed yet interconnected network of preconfigured nodes, which is entirely encrypted. Existing on the architecture of the distributed ledger technology, blockchain not only eliminates the necessity of a third party but also has the potential to reduce cost and increase security in transactions and settlements. Let’s dig deeper and understand how blockchain will encompass the entire world in the coming years. Blockchain stores information across a network of computers which distributes and decentralises the entire systems. Blockchain, therefore, strips away the power from any one particular entity controlling or manipulating the data.

Now how does this work? If you are on a blockchain network or any distributed ledger network for that matter, you will store vast amount of records known as blocks in your personal computer. Every new piece of information is added block by block, so no one can go back and alter any one block. As it gets uploaded on the network, it is time stamped, verified and downloaded on all the computers on the net. Each new block uses the previous block’s identity to create its own identity. So suppose I try to delete or alter a piece of information, every computer on the network would know precisely what it is I was trying to change, from where and at what time.

Gaurang Nanda, a student and blockchain enthusiast from Pune, said that even though blockchain is a pretty recent term in the market, he has been hooked on it for quite some time now. He understands the tremendous potential of blockchain and said that the very existence of cryptocurrency can be attributed to the blockchain technology. As a person closely working in the field every day, Gaurang said that blockchain will slowly take over all the sectors because of the high degree of security it guarantees.

Blockchain makes a constantly evolving system of checks and balances a possibility. These are all stored in a chronological chain on track with all other people on the network. So to put it simply, you have everybody’s record, and everybody has your record. Anyone who is interested can join the network through their personal computer and gain access to all the files.

Journalism saviour

With click baits and fake news flooding the media industry every day, journalism is under siege and blockchain could be the saving grace to all of these complications. Media houses, now more than ever, promote stories that reaffirm the status quo along with the views of the entity that funds them. Real journalism and 360-degree perspectives get lost in a deep web of paid news and propaganda. Due to the various incentives that a writer gets, the content that they generate could have compromised motives. Journalistic integrity gets undermined and not only does this harm the material that is published but is a severe violation of the principle of truth on which the entire industry once stood. Even the most reputable news sources will present their arguments on the basis of what fits their agenda best, and there is no one to question it since most of the media industry encash on whatever’s more profitable. Blockchain comes into play here by taking control of information flow from one entity and allowing the uncensored version of the truth to be published and accessible to all.

Simran Singh, a content writer for Coinedict, said that the media houses keep their online content behind paywalls, charging fees to access stories online. This compromises the content creators because they tend to fit in the commercial models best suited for their organisation. Blockchain resolves a number of these issues permeating the industry by establishing a direct connection between the creator and the consumer. He further added that the widespread use of blockchain based technologies could bring about a massive change in the way we receive content on a daily basis.

The very fact that blockchain eliminates the need of a third party to carry out any form of transaction or exchange can save this industry, which as of today lives under constant fear of dying due to its corrupt and even worse, manipulative elements. It’s quite evident how this network of distributed ledgers can help journalism. Through blockchain technology, we can not only introduce uncensored content but also ensure that no one person has the power to alter facts once published. This is one of the most disarming problems of media, and if we had the means of printing uncensored content without the filters of a publishing house, we would be able to establish a direct connection between the people who produce the content and the people who consume it. This is precisely what blockchain technology stands to bring about.

Vajaahath Hussain, CEO of Almora, has been a dedicated member of the blockchain industry. He turned his passion into a full-fledged company that works on the distributed ledger technology. Almora is a crypto investment bank based in Delhi that assists blockchain focused companies in tailoring solutions and increasing investment opportunities in cryptocurrency. Here is what he has to say about blockchain and its impacts.

The scope

On the scope of blockchain technology, Hussain said, “We cannot quantify the reach of blockchain technology with a metric, but wherever there are middlemen and a need to eliminate the trust factor, blockchain would be useful. Be it in a network of supply chain, finance or the media industry; the distributed ledger technology will find its way in every sector eventually. But the core agenda here is to remove one point of truth and decentralise the power of delivering information to the consumers.

“I used to run my startup called as advogue from Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. But I had to drop that idea because it was very similar to existing technologies in the West and somewhere we can see this pattern a lot in the tech industry. India is always behind the curve because we lack creativity and tend to replicate the western technologies. So my co-founder and I wanted to research more in this area and work ahead of the curve. We got into bitcoin, and once we started learning more about the technology behind it and the potential it holds, we stayed with it and grew from there. I read an article that mentioned 90 use cases of blockchain in various sectors and I was very fascinated by it. This is how it all started.”

On how the blockchain may revolutionise the media industry, Hussain said, “It will enable creators to truly flourish and give them the freedom to proceed with a reduced reliance on content aggregators, platform providers, and royalty collection associations. Creators of content are granted a higher level of autonomy thanks to the blockchain. Although I believe that some applications of blockchain technology will still require a few more years to fully mature, aspects of the media value chain are well underway to be threatened by the rise blockchain based payment and contract options.”

More than ever, there is an alarming need to check and regulate the content that gets published on any platform. Not only does it have a real-life impact, but it is also capable of altering the entire host of issues within our society. Keeping in mind, all the above let us not forget the significant role of the advertising industry in backing up the media houses. Not only the news articles but even the advertisements and the statistics that we see online have become precariously prone to tampering and falsification. Various organisations that post their ads online tend to hire “clickers” to jump up their statistics so that the distributors can demand a higher price for that. Not only this, these big shot companies take advertising money for content they don’t own or produce.

One cannot exaggerate the irresponsibility of media houses and advertising companies when it comes to publishing content and generating advertisements online. This not only costs billions of damage to advertising companies but one can never trust if the statistics are from actual people or they are just “bots”. Now with the help of blockchain, we can say goodbye to the middleman and have complete transparency and clarity about who is clicking on these advertisements. This will revolutionise the entire marketing strategies that these companies formulate and help them spend their funds wisely and more accurately for their target audience. Blockchain technology will disrupt the power of online click bait and bots which will help the companies get returns from all the money that goes into online advertising.

This might be 2018, but a free press is still an illusion, a farfetched goal that seems almost impossible to achieve when we factor in the number of filters any news story has to go through. However, blockchain brings us closer to this reality by eliminating the need for a middleman. It establishes a direct, transparent connection between the producer and the consumers. Blockchain serves the common purpose of bringing out the truth to the forefront and to free us from the centralisation of information.