Blockchain start-up gets $5m funding to break cycle of fake news

26 Oct 2017

Image: Silatip/Shutterstock

Could blockchain be about to change the very nature of journalism? US start-up Civil hopes so, after securing $5m in funding.

Blockchain as a concept is somewhat peculiar in that it is being heralded as having major implications for both the capitalist world of big business, but also in the egalitarian space of free speech and decentralisation of government.

Now, a start-up called Civil is attempting to decentralise the very nature of journalism, having secured $5m in funding led by blockchain venture capital group ConsenSys.

Civil’s business model is to act as a platform to allow readers of various publications to directly sponsor newsrooms and journalists using the start-up’s own cryptocurrency, CVL. It also promises to install an independent advisory board to govern the platform with the aim of hosting fair, objective journalism.

Using blockchain’s ability to create smart contracts, Civil said that its platform will protect journalists against censorship and intellectual property disputes while fostering transparency across the network. It added that collaborative editing and fact-checking will also be incentivised under the platform.

‘Journalism free from advertising, fake news and outside influence’

In a blogpost, Civil’s founder Matthew Iles said: “By providing the economic incentives and governance structures for newsmakers –  writers, editors, photographers and fact-checkers  –  to self-organise, Civil offers a new business model for journalism.

“Our goal is to create a self-sustaining global marketplace for journalism that is free from advertising, fake news and outside influence.”

The company plans to focus first on local, policy and investigative reporting, with $1m of its new funding going towards what it calls its ‘first fleet’ of top-tier journalists to launch the platform.

Its CVL cryptocurrency will launch in early 2018, starting with a live newsroom called Popula, which will be headed by journalist, editor and entrepreneur Maria Bustillos.

Speaking of why she joined, Bustillos said: “The events of November 2016 demonstrated that our media is in a state of crisis, owing to the increased power of moneyed interests in our politics and publishing as well as the colossal media power of platform companies such as Google and Facebook.

“Only a direct, incorruptible conduit between journalists and readers can protect our free press and first amendment rights. Civil’s development of an ethereum-based platform for media is the first step, and I’m very proud to be involved.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic