A few hours ago I archived the complete text of a story we published in September—one I wrote on the date of Bill Cosby’s sentencing—onto the Ethereum blockchain and the IPFS network. And there it will remain, beyond the reach of any adversaries of the free press, for as long as the Ethereum blockchain and IPFS persist; a period which I venture to guess will last as long as the current internet, at the very least.
All this sounds a little bit dramatic but to our knowledge, this is the very first story ever archived by a U.S. publication straight onto to the Ethereum blockchain.
This marks the end of a long journey for Popula, and for our benefactors at Civil, and for me as a journalist. (For a technical clarification of the methods used to achieve this feat, please see this post from Civil’s Walker Flynn.) And the beginning, too, because we have a lot more archiving to do. In the coming days other publishers on the Civil network will start using this tool alongside Popula, as well.
In the spring of 2016, when I covered the trial of Bollea v. Gawker in St. Petersburg, my fellow reporters and I were writing about the naked greed or the anti-press sentiments of Hulk Hogan, or the judicial system in Florida, or the courtroom shenanigans, every day. This whole puppet show we were dutifully reporting on. But in truth we had no idea what we were even looking at, because the real story was about the producer of the show, who went unmentioned throughout: The billionaire Peter Thiel, who’d bankrolled the whole charade and many other lawsuits besides in order to destroy Gawker, a publication that had mocked and criticized his politics, his business failures and his seasteading plans with relentless wit and vitriol.
In a darkly amusing twist, everything I wrote about the trial also disappeared from the internet some months later, in a corporate reshuffling that resulted in the demise of the archives of Death and Taxes, the politics and culture site that had commissioned my work through their editor in chief Brian Abrams. We’ll be archiving those pieces as well.
The ramifications of these developments will be long felt, I believe and hope. Grateful thanks to Walker Flynn, Toby Fox, Robert Okrzesik, Dan Kinsley and Mike Young at Civil, to Tom Scocca at Hmm Daily, to David Moore at Sludge, to Matthew Iles and Lillian Ruiz at Civil, to Nicole Bode at the Civil Foundation, to Old Town Media, and to Melissa Short and Joe Lubin at ConsenSys for making it happen.
Now I’m off to make sure that the blockchain never forgets this day.
UPDATE: This post updated at 3:48PM PST 12/20/18 to add link to technical clarifications from Civil’s Walker Flynn.
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