Using NEAR to help journalism flourish on-chain and establishing a link between humanitarian efforts and journalism in conflict zones.
We were inspired by how to help the creative photojournalism communities in Ukraine and on the frontlines at conflict zones around the world. We see several problems in the world related to frontline journalism:
War time and conflict zone photographers and journalists, including citizen journalists, face a lack of compensation for the risk they take and their families need financial support in case of their death. They face a lack of revenue visibility, overdue payments, and pay disparities, with safety concerns and retaliation when their identity is revealed.
Consumers of news face the specter of distinguishing between propaganda and fake news and true reporting and want a way of countering false news.
Journalists and their content viewers face anxiety over their inability to help when reporting from conflict zone situations which can result in psychological fatigue and war anxiety.
- GitHub Repo: https://github.com/austin-fleming/refound-near-comp
- Project Demo: https://refound-journalism.vercel.app/
Who: Wartime and conflict zone journalists, including freelance and citizen journalists. Reporting the truth should be as safe as possible with equitable compensation. The conflict zone reporting cycle today is not monetized adequately in accordance with the risk involved for journalists.
Why: When conflict zones are not covered by journalists, the parties involved in war can do damage with impunity. Journalists are needed to report the truth in order to catalyze peace, while being adequately compensated for the risk they are taking. News outlets publishing this reporting do not allow for adequate compensation and anonymity for their correspondents and freelance and citizen journalists and also do not direct people to ways to help. News outlets and the public also want verified and credible reporting.
The Solution - what Refound offers:
- Refound is leveraging blockchain technology to create a decentralized platform allowing conflict zone journalists to get better compensation for their work and sell to both the news and a global audience, while allowing NGO parties in conflict zones to vouch for the veracity and credibility of the content.
- The immutability of the blockchain allows for free speech without censorship.
- The utility of NFT’s helps journalists have a clear path to fair compensation, licensing, and royalties.
- Funding pools allow for journalists to produce integral content.
- Wallet based identities allow journalists to maintain anonymity if needed, and blockchain tools offer the ability to monetize their reporting more effectively, with a beneficiary wallet in case of demise.
- NGO based verification allows for journalists to receive a level of credibility for their reporting and also allows the viewers to know which NGO's to reach out to in case they want to help.
- Community based content moderation allows for appropriate content to be featured.
What it does:
A mobile based decentralized application (dApp), that empowers journalists with:
Utility of the NFT smart contracts to publish content wrapped in an NFT and benefitting from built-in ownership and licensing terms.
In-app camera capability to capture live photos for NFTs.
Cryptocurrency wallet with easy sign-up with NEAR and quick on-boarding using Keypom.
Proof of witness / verification - multi wallet input to provide a verified tag to uploaded content to provide a level of verified trust at the human level on-chain. Once on-boarded, NGO's would be available to vouch as witnesses for the verification of reporting from conflict zones.
Empowers journalists to counter the helplessness in war zone reporting by interacting with the NGO's that are active in the conflict zone to vouch for the accuracy of their reporting, which at the same time allows the viewers to also counter war anxiety by taking individual action as desired and reaching out to the NGOs to help.
Profit sharing with impacted communities: Journalists have the ability to share revenue from their photos and articles about conflict with those impacted by conflict. The journalists can accomplish this by sending Keypoms to the people and communities they want to share profits with, while allowing quick on-boarding of those recipients. This will allow funds to flow back to the impacted communities so those who are the victims will also get some compensation for their trauma being shown to the world and those who are the photographers and journalists will also get the ability to help the conflict regions they report from.
Features in development:
- Users can send journalists a bonus and also subscribe to their content.
- A beneficiary wallet process.
- Funding pools for tokenized crowdfunding support.
How we built it:
We built it using Next.js for the front end, Rust for the NEAR smart contracts, and IPFS and Web3.storage for data storage.
- Web Next.js T3 stack (Typescript/Tailwind CSS/tRPC)
- For NEAR integration, we use NEAR-JS-API & WalletSelector
- web3*.Storage* on IPFS stores community source images
- NEAR smart contract written in Rust provides business logic & stores all the NFT collections metadata on-chainSDK
- Keypom for easy onboarding using linkdrop. Future feature will allow for user-interaction function call with user input args
- NEAR NEP 171 standard used for Refound NFTs
Contract is able to:
- Create new collections and allow licensing terms in the metadata
- View metadata of all the existent Collections
- Votes on NFT collection
- Have selected groups verify collections
- Keypom onboarding
- Refound NFT drops
- Refound FT drops
We like NEAR's Keypom for our project because of the benefits offered: i) Refound also wants a cheap, customizable, and unique onboarding experience for users. ii) Refound doesn't want to expose full access keys in their backend servers. iii) Refound also wants a smooth UX with zero barrier to entry onboarding.
Challenges we ran into:
Since the NEAR ecosystem is a relatively new ecosystem to us, we had to familiarize ourselves with Rust Smart-Contract development and tooling e.g. NEAR rs SDK and Near CLI. We had a learning curve to incorporate the features of the NEAR blockchain but once we were familiar with the SDKs it was very smooth.
In addition, adding Keypom took some time understanding the github code, but it was an exciting effort and we were glad to be able to build on it. After going through the test cases, we were able to adjust the deployment script to fit with our smart-contract.
Accomplishments that we're proud of:
We are excited about the potential for journalists to produce integral content and to have the ability to get verified by local parties in the area where the news reporting is from.
We are proud of being able to complete the MVP as a team and ship a working demo on NEAR.
What we learned:
We learned about the exciting offering at NEAR, including Keypom, which can help us to enumerate journalists and communities that are affected by conflict in a seamless and speedy manner, getting the word out and bringing much needed help to areas. We were so excited for the use cases and we are looking forward to Keypom's V2 to further develop them also
Working as a team to deploy the contracts and integrating the front end and backend to develop the dApp in a short time showed us that building on the blockchain can have great utility.
We learned that if we use the right resources we can continue to learn and become better at this and be successful, using documentation, the discord server, youtube content, and NEAR contacts on discord for any questions.
What's next for Refound Journalism:
With the right funding the project could continue to build and do the following:
- Conducting a market test in conflict zones. We plan to start with a few countries to build a community and NGO partners, but having a global reach it can reach millions.
- Validate all assumptions and test in the field: Coordinate with different on-the-ground journalists and citizen journalists and see how the solution would work and gather feedback to see what needs to be better. We have already been in touch with a well-known journalism university and they are interested in collaborating with us to further test the product.
- Bring on more team members and journalists.
- Further refine the business model.
Additional Keypom Use case: One method we thought of but needed more time to test and implement is encouraging compensation for citizen journalism with quick on-boarding of users on NEAR, which may be possible with V2 of Keypom after discussing with the Keypom team on the NEAR office hours discord channel. The news media and online news portals can quickly generate citizen journalism reporting around world events by allowing citizen journalists who want to report live photos of what is happening to post on Refound by dropping keys pre-loaded with NEAR for a free trial, even if they may not have set up their NEAR wallets. This would allow quick on-boarding of users and their photos while giving them access to a way to get paid later for their photography.
What role do the NGO's play and how will they be incentivized to be on-boarded on NEAR: NGO's are primely positioned to help in the conflict zones with their local networks and can also vouch for reporting from war zones as they are working on a not-for-profit basis. This can help bring a level of credibility to reporting and allow the public to distinguish amongst the torrent of propaganda that can exist in such circumstances. NGO's, especially those based locally, currently face difficulty in getting global visibility for their work and for directing awareness and contributions to their causes. The NGO's will be incentivized to sign-up for the ease of reaching a global audience via Refound, meanwhile, they will then be available to opt-in to verify news from their regions as well.