This morning, Sludge published the full text of one of our most-read investigative reports—“Charles Koch Is Funding Rightwing, Pro-Trump Media”—to the Ethereum blockchain.
Today, then, marks the first time that Sludge has published a full article text to the Ethereum blockchain, to be archived in perpetuity. Alex Kotch’s report last month on the Koch foundations’ spending on conservative media will be forever accessible anywhere the internet exists, for ongoing public accountability.
Here’s the transaction on EtherScan that archived our Koch article, and here’s one early artifact of the full article text on the InterPlanetary File System (of course the article remains on the open internet, as before). We’re pleased to be following on the heels of our sibling publication Popula, which published the first-ever full article text to Ethereum on Monday.
Archiving full article text to the Ethereum blockchain or IPFS is as strong a technological guarantee as currently exists that Sludge journalists vouch for the accuracy of our articles at the time they’re published. Our independent newsroom is based on the Membership model of voluntary support. By placing our work in a decentralized archive on the Ethereum platform, we aim to demonstrate that we’re truly accountable to our readers, who can now always access the full text of our backed-up pieces.
This strong degree of permanence makes sense for Sludge’s coverage area of money in politics—unfortunately, journalists have seen in the recent past how powerful interests can acquire their companies, dissolve them, and disappear story archives from the public internet. Even if in the future, Sludge’s database of articles were somehow corrupted or compromised (or disappeared or deleted), the articles we back up on Ethereum or IPFS will be, well, fully damn censorship-proof.
Of course, articles can be updated and corrections issued in real time on the public-facing internet, and subsequent versions of articles should and will be backed up on Ethereum. It will not be possible, however, to go back and add any editorial shading to change our articles—the integrity of the text of the article as originally published to the Ethereum blockchain or IPFS can later be verified with an open-source algorithm.
In fact, decentralized publishing “unlocks” a lot of interesting features for content licensing, remixing, curation, and discovery around the distributed web, and the Civil network will be developing and testing those with the wider Ethereum community. For an example of how distributed content can live around the web—instead of reading a “blockchain explainer” post only on a publishing platform like Medium, writers’ content might be licensed to appear in widgets or pop-up helpers on outside sites, with compensation terms built in to the syndication smart contract and fulfilled automatically over Ethereum.
What’s more, since we have our hands on a lot of campaign finance data at Sludge, we’re planning ways to make money-in-politics information more open to value-addition by publishing it to Ethereum and IPFS—stay tuned, or get in touch to discuss ways we can crowdsource analysis or data-visualizations of campaign contributions and lobbying influence.
I’ve worked in open-source web development since 2005, and it’s important to me that Civil’s technology is largely open-source (on GitHub), and that the Civil Publisher’s design has been made friendly to writers’ workflows in the WordPress menu (and other publishing tools coming soon). Today’s first-ever Sludge deploy to Ethereum comes on the day when Civil has released more information on its product roadmap for rolling out its platform, so more independent journalists will soon be able to use these innovative tools for true self-publishing.
Much more to come on how Sludge will use this open tech for decentralization to support our mission of investigative journalism—read a long form personal essay from October, on the benefits of having the new option of affiliating a WordPress user ID with a crypto wallet address, and be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter for Sludge project updates:
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