In a society with severe trust deficit technology can help bridge the gap.
There have been many victims in the JNU incident but none suffered greater damage than the credibility of the media, especially the TV reportage. Video journalism was on the rise throughout the last decade but with the proliferation of smart phones this took a different turn altogether. Everyone can be a reporter now and not just write but present video proof in real time. The Kanhaiya Kumar case brought out another aspect of the video technology out in the open for everyone to see, that it can doctored. And doctored easily. We can expect this drama to go on for a while. Now that some videos have been found out to be fake, people will deny that they were aired. They will try to create obfuscation about the timing and the exact content of the videos. The hope is that you create so much confusion that people stop believing anything. But what if you had a very simple and tamper-proof way of checking the authenticity of the video or any other media?
Enter blockchain. Blockchain is the technology behind the crypto-currency bitcoin. One of its fundamental properties is that it de-centralizes trust. You do not need to trust a central authority to do transactions or maintain records. Another property is that the history cannot be altered. Once a transaction is recorded in what is known as the distributed ledger then it cannot be tampered with. What it needs is a lot of individuals to run nodes (a software) on their own computers. The more people run the nodes, the more secure and fool-proof the system becomes. You can imagine it as a tweet which cannot be deleted.
It makes sense to put such videos on the blockchain. Once they are there no one can dispute or create confusion about the timing or exact contents of the videos. This is greatly help with quick resolution of facts instead of getting wound-up in endless hours of deciphering who said what. The best thing is that everyone can participate in the maintenance of the network and no one person or organization is responsible for it. There are many technical details that need to be figured out – like using the SHA1 hash of the video might be good enough, an incentive structure for running the nodes, etc.
Ultimately, no technology can help if there is no social capital for its adoption. But the blockchain technology is tailor-made to work in situations where there is a trust deficit. And the current Indian media qualifies.
Siddarth Gore is a Research Scholar at the Takshashila Institution and he tweets @siddhya