History is my witness

Independent Russian news website Meduza has operated in Latvia since 2014. It aims to provide independent reporting and commentary about Russia for Russians. It is inevitably critical of Putin’s government. Since launching its attack on Ukraine the Russian government blocked Meduza in a raft of measures to silence criticism.

Meduza is blocked from its main audience. Asked on the US Rachel Maddow Show why Meduza keeps reporting, its key editor Alexey Kovalev said

“If not for now, we are doing it for the historical record. … My job now is basically documenting my country’s war crimes for any future international tribunals.”

History serves as a powerful agent of truth in times of crisis. Even in peacetime, it’s a comfort for any author, publisher, broadcaster or blogger with a limited audience, to think that at least history is paying attention, though no one else is — for the moment.

Repeated statements from and about The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol make similar assertions about history. Whatever the state and consequences of the current informational challenge, the main task is to provide a clear record of what actually happened and who was responsible — for history.

Blockweave

The imperative to maintain a historical record provides yet another consideration in the face of conflict and corruption. The digital age proliferates images, videos, audio recordings and text files, on multiple distributed record-keeping platforms. Add to that complexity the vulnerability of digital systems to hacking by individual and state agents, and censorship by autocrats.

These opportunities and challenges have motivated developers to create a “censorship-resistant ledger of history,” a “public vault, securing the information in one place for decades to come.” The quotes here are from a recent Bloomberg article by Hannah Miller that draws attention to Arweave, a “blockchain-like” platform for storing large data files. She indicates that

“Videos of Russian troops occupying Chernobyl and explosions rocking Kyiv make up some of the millions of digital records documenting the conflict being held on Arweave, a decentralized data storage network.”

The players in this crypto arm of the information wars include arweave.org, viewblock.io, and bundlr.network, warranting further investigation. In the mean time see Failure for Sale and posts tagged blockchain.

References

Notes

  • According to today’s reporting in Meduza, the list of blocked news outlets includes: Meduza, Dozhd, Echo of Moscow, the BBC TV-2, Radio Liberty, Current Time, Voice of America, Tayga.Info, The New Times, Doxa, Deutsche Welle, The Village, Facebook, Twitter, App Store, Google Play. Several broadcasters have had to cease transmission: Dozhd, Znak.com, Echo of Moscow, BBC, Ksenia Sohchak’s YouTume channel. Several have stopped their own war reporting: Novaya Gazeta, The Bell, It’s My City, Republic.
  • Image is the Riga Radio and TV Tower, Latvia, 2014.

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