Future. A blockchain startup called Arweave is seeing a flurry of activity as participants look to preserve Ukraine’s digital media. The idea is to create a Noah’s Ark of the current conflict — a historical trove of material put together by users all around the world before Russia has a chance to delete it all (if it’s victorious). Despite its noble intentions, Arweave may need to go back and weed out disinformation when the dust ultimately settles.
All aboard the blockchain
Is history always written by the victors? Arweave wants to make sure that’s not the case for Ukraine in the event that the country falls to Russia.
- The San Francisco-based blockchain startup (which has backing from a16z and Union Square Ventures) created a platform it calls the “permaweb” to archive and preserve media — news articles, documents, videos, and social media posts.
- Arweave says it has figured out a way to store an “unlimited” amount of data cheaply and permanently.
- Since the start of the Ukraine conflict, the platform has reportedly stored over 6.5 million pieces of information (over 50 terabytes of data) thanks to participants from all over the world.
- The goal is to create an accurate digital record of what took place in the event that the media is deleted by the victor (in this case, taking aim at Russia’s penchant for rewriting history).
How the heck does this platform even work? Platform participants host “nodes” that keep it up and running. The company pays node-handlers in its proprietary token, AR, which is currently priced at $28 and has a market capitalization of $1 billion.
But anyone can upload media to the archive by simply downloading Arweave’s browser extension and setting up a digital wallet. A more in-depth guide can be found here.
The flood of history
Arweave creator Sam Williams launched the platform in 2017, and it was immediately put to use just a year later, during another conflict between Ukraine and Russia — the Russian capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors. The Russian publisher Sputnik posted a pro-Ukrainian article on the subject… but it was only online for 14 minutes before being replaced by a more pro-Russian one. Luckily, someone uploaded the article to Arweave before it was deleted. Elsewhere, Arweave also had a spike in usage during the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Williams said that Arweave is “fundamentally censorship resistant, and now anyone can contribute to this archive for a cent per megabyte and make sure that the thing that they think is important is recorded for history.”