How an Unlikely New Jersey Duo Is Using the Ethereum Blockchain to Reshape Journalism

Journalist:
May 2, 2017

Like many Americans, Samit Singh and Dondrey Taylor, emerged from last year’s U.S. presidential election dismayed by the state of American mass media. Now, the New Jersey duo is doing something about it.

Called the Decentralized News Network, or DNN, their organization aims to produce news “by the people for the people” using monetary incentives made possible by the same technology that underlays digital currencies like Bitcoin, the blockchain. DNN combines citizen journalism with a system of fact-checking powered by circulating the platform’s own digital currency.

           “DNN enables a form of incentivized collaboration that wouldn’t otherwise even be possible if we weren’t on the blockchain,” said Singh, 27, the company’s chief executive officer and a graduate of Penn State’s finance program. “The blockchain enables everyone involved to earn a piece of the pie, assuming they put forth their share of effort.”

In an era of alternative-facts, Singh and Taylor believe America is ripe for a decentralized approach to newsgathering, writing, editing and distribution that aims to counteract the insidiousness of fake news and over-the-top political commentary.

“We allow people to have a dialogue on factual articles,” said Taylor, 25, a graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who previously partnered with Singh to create Minichat, a global messaging application. “We can cover anything and we have a proper story review process.”

Here’s how the platform works.

A writer pens a news story and submits it to DNN for accuracy and balance, which is then seen by a randomly selected, online panel of seven anonymous reviewers. They assess articles according to DNN’s editorial guidelines and suggest changes to the writer. If the article passes muster, the writer is rewarded with DNN tokens. So, too, are reviewers who approve a story with a majority of other reviewers.

“Anyone can be a writer, anyone can be a reviewer and anyone can be a reader,” said Singh, who reckons DNN will attract writers and reviewers who are passionate about providing readers with well-written, factual news. “Those roles can switch and the lines between those roles can blur.”

Whatever Singh and Taylor lack in journalistic experience they make up for in passion for unleashing the power of blockchain technology to produce a news platform that ordinary people can trust. They will initially focus on encouraging the DNN community to produce political stories.

As for previous blockchain experience, Singh and Taylor have been successfully mining Ethereum’s ether tokens for more than two years at a large-scale data center in North Carolina. Mining involves running software on a computer in order to solve mathematical algorithms to complete transactions on the Ethereum blockchain.

           The DNN news platform will run on Ethereum, which is the world’s largest public blockchain after Bitcoin. The value of DNN’s tokens will be linked to the value of Ethereum’s ether. One ether is currently valued at approximately US$59.

Singh and Taylor were turned onto the concept of citizen journalism by what they perceived as a decline in the quality of American journalism during the presidential campaign. In fact, Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” last year dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history.

Rather than selling advertising or soliciting donations to run the platform, DNN’s founders opted to fund the system by selling DNN tokens that will trade on digital token exchanges around the world.

Another strength of the DNN system is that it will be decentralized, not dominated by a corporate news provider with a political agenda. The power of the blockchain allows for a fully decentralized network that can never be hacked into, taken down or censored.

“There really is no big overseer in this whole process,” said Singh. “DNN is run from a grass-roots level.” A demonstration version of DNN’s news software will be ready for review in May.

Featured image from Shutterstock.