Blockchain technologies are revolutionizing the world in many ways, including politically, and now, the citizens of Hong Kong who are using it to fight against the centralized power of the Chinese government.
People in Hong Kong fighting for a series of social demands —which range from small revindication to major demands like their independence from the Chinese government— are taking advantage of the decentralization features of blockchain to store their memories in the face of an apparent attempt by the Chinese government to erase historical records related to clashes between rebellious citizens and authorities.
Is Hong Kong Trying to Erase History?
On May 3, 2021, Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK announced its decision to delete all videos and content stored on its servers and social networks like YouTube and Facebook for more than a year. According to a spokesperson for the broadcaster, this controversial move aims to align social media content with the company’s own internal policies of only storing content for 12 months.
Considering that the social uprisings in Hong Kong took off in 2019 (as part of a protest against the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill) and that this is a relevant political phenomenon for the history of this region, such a type of censorship affected much of the dissidence, and many users rushed to backup shows and coverage of special events such as the Yuen Long attacks.
But content cannot simply be re-uploaded to streaming platforms because RTHK holds the copyrights on such material, and could simply demand its deletion, so decentralization is key to preserving coverage of the events.
And this is where blockchain comes in.
Using the Blockchain to Fight Against Censorship
According to a report by Quartz, people in Hong Kong are using blockchain to store coverage of important events and protect such content from government censorship.
This is not the first time it has happened, back in 2018, someone used an Ethereum transaction to save the content of an open letter published by a student who denounced pressures from her teachers to cease her denunciations of a sexual abuse case. The letter disappeared from social networks but remains immutable in Ethereum’s blockchain records.
But with current fees, storing large amounts of information is not feasible on Ethereum, so technology enthusiasts developed their own blockchain: LikeCoin.
LikeCoin works on two fronts. First, it makes sure to store the content in IPFS, and second, it ensures that the content has not been tampered with by storing the metadata in its own blockchain, just like some projects did with misinformation during the COVID outbreak.
Any alteration of content will produce a complete change in the stored metadata, so it will be easy to distinguish unadulterated files from edited ones.
For this, LikeCoin uses a digital registry protocol called the International Standard Content Number (ISCN) to catalog metadata.
The network is growing and is already being used by independent media such as Stand News and Citizen News, and is likely to continue to grow as time goes on.