The pen is mightier than the sword. This adage has been thrown around so often that, for most of us, it’s become little more than a cliche. Yet countless journalists and writers can attest that what the world takes for granted – the act of expressing one’s thoughts on paper – can come at a great cost.
DNN – Decentralized News Network – is a blockchain startup driven by decentralization and collaboration to present unbiased factual news. Before we learn how DNN’s blockchain solution can vouchsafe our right to freedom of the press, let us investigate why this is more relevant to us than we know.
What Is Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press?
To ensure we cover the full nuances of what you might think is an obvious answer, I turn to a classic textbook definition (in our case, Wikipedia):
Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction. The term “freedom of expression” is sometimes used synonymously but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the principle that communicate and express through various mediums, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely. Such freedom implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state; its preservation may be sought through constitutional or other legal protections.
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Now that you think about it, anyway, because how often do you need to do that? After all, you share these rights with your countrymen, as do individuals in most countries around the world. Never mind the fact that in some countries, citing Wikipedia wouldn’t even be possible. These examples do not represent the “reality” of the world today: that we’re free to say as we please. Or are we?
The Long and Winding Road: A History Lesson
The mere fact that we’re able to take freedom of speech for granted is testimony to how far we’ve come. The belief that we have full rights to say what we want to say when we want to say it might be an old one, judging by a generational outlook. But it’s been a tough battle, getting here, with bloodshed and stories that would put the Game of Thrones plot to shame.
In 399 BC, original thought was punishable by death, as the founder of Western philosophy found out. Socrates was on trial for “corrupting” the youth of Athens, a crime which included guiding them to – oh, the sacrilege – question authority. He might have sealed his death warrant with this one, but his execution didn’t take place until he left history with an important principled stance:
If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind… I should say to you, ‘Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you.’
It would take many hundreds of years for Greece’s human sacrifice in the name of freedom of speech to reach outspoken northern European minds. In 1516, Dutch humanist and scholar Desiderius Erasmus risked his comfortable position as tutor to a prince when he let his conviction be heard:
In a free state, tongues too should be free.
Of course, this wasn’t enough for Italian wundermind Galileo Galilei to escape being put on trial by the Church over “vehement suspicion of heresy,” all because he dared to suggest the earth revolved around the sun! Galilei happened to love life a little more than his scientific theories, so he retracted his earlier statements, skipping death by martyrdom. But his story provides us with a pretty bleak peek into life before the right to speak became a right.
A Universal Human Right
In 1689, the English Bill of Rights granted the right to freedom of speech in Parliament. What lucky politicians, being able to speak their minds! The rest of the country would have to wait until the French Revolution, more than 100 years into the future.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, written in France in 1789, stated:
The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
Back in those days, the French Revolution made France the birthplace of Western democracy. Abolishing the godlike powers of kings and queens in favor of rule for the people by the people ultimately gave rise to the United States Bill of Rights on the principles of such freedom.
Hundreds of years later, the 1984 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a bedrock declaration of what we believe our rights as human beings to be – informs us:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The Illusion You Didn’t Know You Lived Under
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are critical concepts, yet, much like breathing, it’s not something we appreciate until our ability to do so is hampered. When we do consider such suppression, we’re quick to relate it to countries like China, where more than 6 million websites are blocked under government sanction, including Google and its products Gmail and Google Maps, Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia. This is a country – nothing like ours – where even having fun is turned into propaganda.
For those of us who are citizens of democratic countries, most believe that while this is something that happens “in those places,” we’re exempt from such outrageous impositions on our right to tell the world what’s on our mind or be exposed to the thoughts of others.
Yet, as we’re about to find out, we live under a false sense of security that our freedom of speech is as free as we assume it to be. Censorship is alive and well, and it affects you more than you know.
Our Country, Our Rules
In the People’s Republic of China, people don’t have a say when it comes to what websites they can or cannot access. That power lies with the government who, incredulously, does not feel its prohibitions hampers or impedes free speech.
Apparently, “Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the internet,” yet one has to take into account that “[w]ithin Chinese territory the internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. The internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected.” After all, “[l]aws and regulations clearly prohibit the spread of information that contains content subverting state power, undermining national unity [or] infringing upon national honour and interests.”
The suppression of free speech that China engages in, North Korea has taken to the extreme. In addition to its list of human rights violations (that includes impeding freedom of movement and freedom of information), freedom of speech is one right that is overtly not universal:
Criticism of the regime or the leadership in North Korea, if reported, is enough to make you and your family ‘disappear’ from society and end up in a political prison camp. It goes without saying that there is no free media inside the country. The only opinion allowed to be voiced inside the country is the regime’s.
If this sounds otherworldly and not part of your daily frame of reference, consider this: Global press freedom is at its lowest this century, according to a study by freedom of expression campaign group Article 19. And it’s not just because of “other” countries. Unless you’re in one of very few countries that can boast a yellow scorecard as per the graphic below, your local journalist is not at liberty to say and write whatever is on their mind.
Coincidentally, WikiLeaks’ founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange turned to cryptocurrencies after major payment providers blocked donations to the organization in one of the foremost examples of suppression of freedom of press in the West.
We have previously reported on how investing in Bitcoin made WikiLeaks a 50,000 percent return, and how the whistleblower website has even gone as far as adding a new cryptocurrency payment option by adopting CryptoKitties.
WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization with the motto “We open governments” is perhaps the best example of censorship in a largely democratic world. The website publishes vetted “secret information, news leaks, and classified media provided by anonymous sources” and hosts about 10 million documents that have been published over the 10 years of its existence. This “for the greater good” endeavor, however, has resulted in Assange being targeted for arrest by the US government.
Payment boycotts and the possibility of life behind bars is not the worst of it. Just look at the case of Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel, whose newspaper article resulted in a call for her execution, and more than 200 dead during a resulting riot. There’s also the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who died for his right to express his activist views in film. Or the blatant killing of 12 and injury of 11 Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists.
Why These Freedoms Are Important
What does all this have to do with you, you ask?
Forget, for a second, a 2014 finding by the World Bank that countries with media free(ish) to express itself are at less of a risk for violent political uprisings.
Or the fact that growing up in a society that fosters free speech is important for children’s development:
…freedom of expression improves children’s progress in confidence and social awareness, facilitates humans to broaden their minds and knowledge, as well as, supports democracy movement in society. Thus, it is crucial for people to express whatever opinions they have without being interfered or threatened.
And, if you’re not in Spain, then the country’s seeming regression back to the Dark Ages won’t affect you.
Neither will universities’ “free speech zones” affect you if you’re not a student wishing to exercise their rights outside of these designated zones.
Consider, instead, real-life examples of people like you and me who have found their right to speak their mind blocked by authorities who should not have the right to exercise such power.
After all, it was George Washington who said:
If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
In a world where “free” countries control freedom of speech, how will you know what you don’t know?
The Blockchain Answer
Blockchain is far from gospel, but the technology is a major step towards curtailing many of the problems we currently face as a society – censorship being one of them. Thankfully, there’s a new kid on the block that is dedicated to using the power of blockchain to make important changes to how we do things.
We have previously written about the solution Decentralized News Network (DNN) offers in the fight against fake news. It is a real need, considering the fact that studies show false news travels faster than the truth. But this powerful decentralized news platform also offers freethinkers a soapbox stand that is:
- free from the agenda-driven say-so of a central authority (meaning what you publish is up to you, aided by DNN’s wealth of reviewers)
- censorship-proof (a.k.a. what’s stored on the blockchain stays on the blockchain, irrespective of disgruntled governments, political, religious, cultural, or any other groups – oh, and thanks to timestamping, it’s pretty much immune to data manipulation)
- there for life… and then some (because not only is this the internet and every word we press ‘Enter’ on is immortalized, but DNN’s community-managed servers go that extra mile in ensuring the written word is inked onto the web for keeps).
DNN: The Key to Preventing History from Repeating Itself
It’s 2018. We shouldn’t be having this conversation, you and I. Not when we keep telling ourselves how free we are. But pondering the self-expression mirage we suffer under is only half the battle fought. We need solutions.
DNN probably won’t prevent murders, arrests, or riots. Blockchain can’t combat human nature when it’s at its worst. But the company is initiating a conversation among the general population that’s long overdue, and it’s giving us the tools to stand up and fight, even when we think the fight isn’t ours. Because, actually, it is.
DNN’s mission reads:
DNN will focus exclusively on factual and thorough perspectives of current affairs, while rewarding all parties involved.
Our mission is to create news content that is both empowering for its readers, as well as representative of the integrity of its writers. We aspire to become the most trusted and democratic news alternative to mainstream media.
Telling the truth, being ensured of its continued lifespan, and getting paid for it… welcome to the journalism of tomorrow.
Who Is DNN For?
What happens around the world affects us all. That being said, using the DNN platform has marked benefits for a plethora of key players:
The General Public
I list this first because you’d be astonished at how often the media puts its audience last. We’re all sick of questioning the validity of what we read, and those of us in the know (including, now, the readers of this article) are doubly sick of the continued disregard for freedom of speech. So “yes, please” for a media platform that is free from agendas, bias, or censorship.
Especially one that can elevate you from a mere spectator into a meaningful contributor through its writer/reviewer channels. And they’ll even throw in suggestions for improvement, making you a better writer or reviewer (or both) in the process.
Earlier we heard about journalists having their source of funding taken away from them. DNN ensures that a journalist or content creator’s work not only sees the light but is rewarded with DNN tokens. Journalists themselves are meant to control what they write, after all. Not big-shot guys with corner offices who get a pat on the back for everything they omit from the public.
Drawing from mainstream media gives news presenters a limited coverage scope. At the same time, alternative media is considered too unreliable to serve as a source. DNN, on the other hand, is able to provide vetted news stories and features. Additionally, presenters are rewarded for flagging article inaccuracies, as well as suggesting topics for writers to cover.
Far from being a threat, DNN could benefit a media outlet’s bottom line through outsourcing fact-checking of external articles to DNN’s platoon of reviewers. This could save on staff or third-party costs.
As a platform user, you have the ability to sign up as a writer, reviewer, or reader – and seamlessly move between these roles as you wish. You can do this by visiting DNN’s Alpha platform, which is already operational.