Civil: Promoting Free Press and Public Accountability

Asia Blockchain Review
August 20, 2019

Asia Blockchain Review recently spoke to Liv Buli, VP, Editorial at Civil Media, a community-owned platform for independent journalism. Civil is a growing network of news organizations and supporters committed to free press, civil discourse, and public accountability. Buli talked about the mission of Civil, the importance of the Civil community, its uses of blockchain, its new fundraising tool for newsrooms, and Civil’s role in preventing the decline of journalism as an industry.


Asia Blockchain Review: What is the mission of Civil? How is it preventing the decline of journalism?

Liv Buli: The mission of Civil is to build the world’s most trustworthy media platform, while supporting the values of original and fair independent journalism. We are living in a time where trust in news is at an all-time low. Freedom of the press is under challenge, the spread of misinformation is rampant, and traditional revenue models are failing to sustain an independent press — leading to a dearth of local and independent coverage. Leveraging blockchain technology, Civil is building a community of governance to provide readers with a layer of trust and building valuable tools for independent newsrooms such as Boosts — our peer-to-peer fundraising tool for journalistic projects. 


ABR: How does Civil utilize blockchain technology?

LB: Blockchain technology provides the foundation for our decentralized and autonomous media platform. Our governance relies on a token-curated registry, where the community of token holders is charged with ensuring that the newsrooms that apply to the registry adhere to the ethical standards laid out in the Civil Constitution. If the community finds that a newsroom is in violation of these standards, they can decline an application, initiate challenges and appeals, and cast their votes in the form of tokens. 

In addition, we are leveraging blockchain technology to build a variety of useful tools for independent newsrooms, such as the ability to index and store content to the blockchain, revenue-generating applications such as Boosts, and more. 

ABR: Can you tell us about Civil’s new fundraising tool for newsrooms? Why did Civil develop this tool?

LB: It’s really quite simple — great reporting costs money. Boosts is just the first in a suite of revenue-generating tools that Civil is developing in order to support sustainable, independent journalism. We spent hours talking to both newsmakers and audiences alike and learned that there are a few fundamental features that would make this tool a game-changer. 

First of all, readers are more invested when they have a better understanding of the work and resources that go into any journalistic project. Boosts allow newsrooms to detail and highlight those needs — whether they are seeking to acquire necessary equipment, pursue a FOIA (U.S. Freedom of Information Act) request, or send a reporter to an important event. What is more, the tool allows newsrooms to more actively engage their audience in the work they are doing, helping to forge a deeper relationship with a more loyal and invested following. 

Last, but not least, unlike other fundraising platforms that exist today, Civil takes no cut of the money newsrooms raise — ensuring direct support from audience to newsroom. Only approved newsrooms on the Civil Registry may launch Boosts. That is to ensure that public money is only going to trustworthy organizations. 

There are two independent newsrooms on the Civil registry currently running boosts to support projects — Creative Next and Arepita. See more here


ABR: What is the Civil Foundation, and how does it support journalism?

LB: The Civil Foundation is an independent not-for-profit committed to the sustainability of trustworthy journalism around the world. It supports independent journalism through a variety of measures and programs, grant making, advocacy, and educational programming for newsrooms. 

The Foundation is also responsible for managing the Civil Constitution, a document built in collaboration with hundreds of editors, reporters, academics, and the public and is a living document that will continue to evolve over time. 

In addition, the Foundation houses the Civil Council, an independent oversight committee that will review and decide on any appeals initiated by the Civil community. The Council has the ability to overturn community decisions, but the community, in turn, has the power to veto the Council through a supermajority vote.

ABR: Can you tell us about the community at Civil? Who are in this community, and what are their roles?

LB: The Civil community governs the Civil Registry. Newsrooms apply to join the Civil Registry, and it is the community that vets newsroom applicants to ensure that they meet the standards laid out in the Civil Constitution. 

Members of the community are charged with ensuring that all newsrooms on the Civil Registry continue to abide by these ethical standards. Members have the power to challenge any newsroom that does not uphold the Constitution and vote on issues using Civil tokens.


ABR: What are your plans for 2019-2020? Can you tell us where Civil is headed?

LB: There is still a long road ahead to fixing what is broken in independent journalism today. Our team is forging ahead on our mission to bring sustainability and technological advancements to independent, ethical newsrooms across the globe. 

In the years ahead, we’ll continue to grow and develop our community, governance, and the number of trusted newsrooms on our platform. We will continue to research and develop the tools necessary to support independent newsrooms, both financially and otherwise, and ensure that the public has access to the news they need and can trust what they read. 

ABR: In this era, how should traditional journalists adapt to the shifts in the media industry?  

LB: There lies great opportunity in the technological advancements that are possible today. It is essential that journalists are able to understand and take advantage of these opportunities, in order to create a sustainable environment for independent journalism and survive — even as we see a decline in local and independent coverage, shifting revenue models, and increasing challenges to freedom of the press. 


ABR:  How can blockchain enhance transparency and accountability in the journalism industry?

LB: Blockchain technology enables a decentralized and independent platform that can ensure trust in media through community governance. It brings the power back to newsmakers and the public, in allowing them to determine what is fair and ethical journalism.

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