The Hong Kong authorities has already proven it has no qualms about rewriting history. However, some puzzled, would it not actually go as far as to erase historical past?
The reply is sure.
Earlier this month, the general public broadcaster Radio Tv Hong Kong introduced that it could begin erasing archival content that’s over a yr previous. Which means packages masking the 2019 Hong Kong protests can be wiped from RTHK’s web site and social media accounts, as would the broadcaster’s protection of the political crackdown. It’s the newest growth within the authorities’s bid to remake RTHK as a part of its marketing campaign to exert better management over information media.
Folks started frantically backing up episodes of RTHK reveals, with a give attention to its award-winning present affairs program, Hong Kong Connection. An episode titled “7.21 Who Owns The Reality,” an investigation into the armed thug assault in opposition to protesters and civilians on the suburban Yuen Lengthy prepare station in July 2019, gives an instance of a key document at risk of being misplaced. In that incident, cops solely arrived on scene after the thugs had left, inflicting public trust in the Hong Kong police to plummet amid widespread hypothesis of collusion between the police and the thugs.
In an indication of how politically delicate the Yuen Lengthy assaults had change into for the federal government, the primary particular person to be convicted in relation to the incident was not one of many assailants, however a journalist who labored on the RTHK episode investigating the assaults. She was discovered responsible of misusing a public data base.
However with a lot content material liable to erasure, to not point out the opportunity of backed-up copies being faraway from platforms like YouTube attributable to copyright causes, it quickly turned clear that Hong Kong wanted a extra coordinated and complicated strategy to archiving its current previous.
Preserving historical past with blockchain
Kin Ko is the founding father of LikeCoin, a decentralized publishing infrastructure. As Ko explains it, the place cryptocurrencies decentralize cash and finance, the open-source LikeCoin blockchain expertise decentralizes content material and publishing.
It really works like this. LikeCoin features as a repository not of content material, however of metadata—particulars like creator, title, publication date and site, in addition to a particular fingerprint. That metadata is exclusive and immutable, and generated the primary time a bit of content material is printed. Simply as every printed ebook has a singular Worldwide Customary Guide Quantity (ISBN), LikeCoin makes use of a digital registry protocol known as the International Standard Content Number (ISCN) to catalog metadata.
Whereas having folks individually downloading backup copies of RTHK episodes is actually useful, Ko mentioned, that technique presents one downside: how do you retrieve that backup?
“When you’re the one that backed it up, you’ll be able to look via the onerous disk. However what in case you’re not that particular person? Or what in case your onerous disk has damaged?” he mentioned. Then there’s the query of authenticity. “How are you aware that [backed up] picture is similar picture taken 10 years in the past? How are you aware there hasn’t been additional work carried out to it?”
With LikeCoin, nevertheless, one want solely examine the ISCN fingerprint to see if the metadata is similar as the unique copy, or if it has been tinkered with. Ko used RTHK’s “7.21 Who Owns the Reality” documentary for instance of how LikeCoin can confirm authenticity. “If I watch this video 10 years later, if the fingerprint has modified, we all know that the content material has modified,” he mentioned. That change could possibly be benign, like compressing the video file right into a smaller format. Or it may reveal tampering, like deleting frames or re-editing it in a deceptive means.
Utilizing blockchain to bypass censorship is just not new. In 2018, for instance, #MeToo activists in China used the Ethereum blockchain to protect an open letter by a Peking College pupil who mentioned she was being pressured by the administration to stop her activism on a sexual assault case. As Quartz defined on the time:
Whereas the letter hasn’t lasted lengthy on social media, it’s now on the ethereum blockchain for good. Transaction records for the cryptoasset present that on April 23, an ethereum deal with despatched a price of zero ethereum to itself, costing a complete of about 53 US cents (transactions utilizing ethereum are charged a payment). The metadata to the transaction contained the the textual content of Yue’s open letter.
Ko, who has a background as a recreation developer, mentioned that the initiative to backup Hong Kong content material on LikeCoin is barely completely different. First, Ethereum’s excessive transaction prices implies that backing up a big physique of content material, versus a single letter, would rapidly get very costly. “That’s why we have to create our personal, particular blockchain, designed for content material saving, not for finance,” he mentioned.
One other distinction is that LikeCoin solely shops metadata, whereas within the case of the Peking College instance, the Ethereum transaction metadata saved the textual content of the open letter. With the LikeCoin system, the precise content material is backed up on one thing known as the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a distributed system for storing information, web sites, functions, and information. Akin to peer-to-peer torrenting providers like BitTorrent, the extra folks utilizing IPFS to retailer content material, the quicker a search is, Ko defined.
For now, the LikeCoin blockchain expertise is comparatively younger. It was launched in beta format in November 2019, at the height of Hong Kong’s protests, with Ko eyeing an official launch this summer time. He acknowledges that LikeCoin nonetheless must be extra user-friendly, however mentioned Hong Kong’s social circumstances compelled him to unveil it earlier.
Native impartial information shops, together with the Stand Information and Citizen Information, additionally use LikeCoin. This helps the publications catalog their content material on a decentralized registry, storing their content material on IPFS and producing a singular fingerprint for each bit of content material.
Ko, an avid watcher of Sport of Thrones, alluded to the sequence’ character Bran Stark for example the significance of decentralizing data. Within the present, Stark’s capacity to see into the past makes him a robust determine, and likewise means a key villain needs to kill him with the intention to destroy reminiscence. The corollary, Ko defined, is that if Stark had been decentralized on blockchain, no villain would be capable to kill him and thus erase historical past.
The duty of “preserving historical past can’t be handed to a single unit,” mentioned Ko. “You’ll be able to’t depend on a single unit to it. You want a broad populace to do it. ”