Civil is putting journalism on the blockchain

September 21, 2018


Civil is putting journalism on the blockchain

While the crypto markets remain mired in a long-term price slump, innovative uses for underlying blockchain technology continue to emerge. Civil, a de-centralized protocol for journalism, is the latest project to illustrate this trend. Civil recently opened their token sale, which is being run through Token Foundry, to the public.

The Civil Protocol was designed by The Civil Media Company. The project received $5 million in seed funding from Consensys in October of 2017.

While the internet and digital media revolution has democratized the spread of information, making information more widely available to the masses, it has had a disastrous effect on the economics of the news industry. Digital advertising has helped plug some of the revenue shortfall caused by the internet revolution, but most news organizations are still running on extremely tight margins. Digital and social media has also incentivized harmful behaviors such as clickbait journalism and fake news.

The Civil Protocol allows journalists to produce, distribute and ultimately own the content they produce. The protocol is based around “Newsrooms,” which will be organizations based on the protocol. There are already over half a dozen Newsroom set up and operating using the protocol. The current pool of Newsrooms includes organizations dedicated to local news, investigative journalism, and policy journalism.

All activity on the Civil network must conform to the standards set in place by the Civil Constitution, a document that outlines community norms and standards that participants must follow. An initial draft version of the Constitution was posted for comment on May 4th, and the team is still soliciting public feedback on the evolving document.

The protocol will be administered using Civil’s unique cryptocurrency, called CVL. CVL will use an economic incentive system to allow the entire community to supervise and police the activity that takes place on the network. Much of the underlying CVL crypto-economics incentivization structure will be familiar to those with some experience with common decentralized community organization structures.

CVL tokens will be used to create a new Newsroom organization, in which case the Newsroom’s founder(s) must stake CVL tokens to act as a deposit. The deposit seeks to ensure that spam groups do not try to establish Newsroom organizations using the Civil. If the community feels that a Newsroom is violating the terms laid out in the constitution, a community member can stake CVL tokens to challenge the Newsroom’s status. Community members can than vote on the outcome of the challenge.

Community members must stake CVL to challenge a Newsroom and are rewarded if their challenge is accepted by the community. Members of the community are rewarded for participating in the vote on a challenge by being rewarded for voting correctly and penalized for voting incorrectly.

Finally, if a Newsoom’s challenge is contested, community members can take the challenge to the Civil Counsel. The Civil Counsel is a non-partisan body of journalists and academics who will serve as the final arbiter for cases. The Civil Counsel will vote and on disputes regarding challenges in the network.

While CVL tokens will be used for maintaining the network and protocol, they will not be used by consumers to reward Newsrooms and content producers. Newsrooms will be free to design their own monetization strategy, using both crypto and fiat to fund their ongoing operations.

Civil’s CVL token is an ERC-20 token built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. The token sale opened on Tuesday and will continue for twenty-eight days or until the hard cap of $24 million of sales is reached. CVL tokens are not intended for speculative purchase, and according to Civil’s website prospective buyers must be planning on contributing to the ecosystem, either via staking a Newsroom or voting to settle disputes.

100% of the proceeds of Civil’s token sale will go to the Civil Foundation, which will use the funds maintaining and improving the network. The team envisions using the proceeds of the sale to fund grants for improving the network, maintain the Civil Counsel, and fund research into improving the future of journalism.

There are many exciting blockchain projects that are hoping to solve the social and economic issues that have arisen from the organization structure of Web 2.0. Civil’s project has received extensive coverage in mainstream news organizations, including the New York Times. It will be exciting to see how this project continues to evolve, and what type of impact it may have on both the crypto and the journalism communities.