Historically, blockchain has been solely known as the technology that enabled Bitcoin, and in time, other cryptocurrencies too. It did not take long though, for innovators to see blockchain’s potential, and its possible use cases in the real world. The latest way in which this has been achieved was during the Brazilian 2022 presidential election.
You may be thinking “how can blockchain be used in politics?” The answer is, it allows politicians to make their policies, laws and promises immutable, allowing the general public to compare any news they see to the candidate’s policies.
Blockchain vs fake news and propaganda
Ever since 2016, the term ‘fake news’ has shoot up in popularity, in large parts due to the US election that was taking place that year. The term cemented itself in the eyes of the public in early 2017, when Donald Trump used the term against CNN.
“Your organisation is terrible,” Trump told CNN’s Jim Acosta when he tried to ask a question.
“You’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Acosta replied.
“Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” Trump responded.
Since then, the term has been associated with propaganda, often dubbed as the “new propaganda”. While it has been argued that fake news and propaganda are different, they both are undoubtedly part of the same family: besmirching someone else or bolstering oneself through lies.
In Trump’s case, he was arguing CNN was biased in its publications, posting articles that were not neutral in their coverage of the election.
Modern media has made it very difficult for the general public to find the truth. Whichever way you look at it, you will be able to find an article online which supports what you have searched – be it fact or fiction. This is especially impactful during a presidential election, as those unsure of who to vote for will look to find a reliable source with a candidate’s policies. Fake news can make this increasingly difficult.
By establishing policies using blockchain technology, voters can pick up any bit of information they find and compare it to that on the blockchain – if it is different they can discard it, but if it matches, they can confidently believe what the source is saying.
Usage in Brazil
On 2 October 2022, Brazil held its national presidential elections. However, a simple majority was not decided meaning Jair Bolsonaro of the liberal party (PL) who had 43.2 per cent of the votes and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known universally as Lula, of the worker’s party (PT) who had 48.43 per cent, went to a run-off.
Four days before the run off was set to take place, Lula, and São Paulo Governor nominee Fernando Haddad registered their government plans on the Decred Blockchain.
This meant voters could upload a government plan file to Decred’s website, and compare the code that appeared with the code available on the Lula and Haddad websites. If there was a difference of just one letter it will change the code, proving it was not an identical copy of the official plan.
This is not the first time blockchain has been used in this way. Jake Yocom-Piatt, co-founder and project lead of Decred, told The Fintech Times that politicians are increasingly starting to use the technology in this way as it creates greater transparency. In addition to listing their policies, they are also starting to list funding, so the public can become aware of their donations.
“I think it’s I think it’s very reassuring to see Brazil using blockchain technology the way it is. If you look around the planet, very few others are using blockchain tech this way. It’s great to see that the powerhouse of South America, Brazil, is on the cutting edge of software or hardware technology, purely for the fact you don’t usually associate the region with this sort of development.
“I find it really refreshing to see a nation using technology in a forward thinking way like this where they’re using it to benefit their society – I find that incredibly encouraging,” he added.
Does a lack of blockchain mean a candidate is not trustworthy?
Yocom-Piatt explained that this was not necessarily the case: “Blockchain tech is new and confusing for a lot of people. There are many who don’t really understand what this verification, public claiming, timestamping, and attribution process really mean.”
Someone who may want to change their policies later down the line may not want to commit to anchoring their plans on the blockchain, he said
“I see both directions, which is that if someone didn’t want to commit their plans on the blockchain, it can be an indication of not wanting to commit to a particular thing at a particular time.
“Another angle is if your party has a strong control of the media locally, then you might not feel so inclined to do list your plans on the blockchain. But if your party doesn’t have very strong control over the local media at the time, you probably have a greater incentive to do it.
“It really comes down to how things shake out locally and is not just a question of trust. Right now, not a huge number of people in the public understand what it means when you make commitments like this on the blockchain, but I expect over the next, several years, they will come to understand.”
There will be a time when using blockchain tech won’t be a choice, but a necessity
Deep fake fraud is a growing problem in all industries. With fraudsters having greater access to technology which allows them to imitate others, it becomes harder and harder to what is legitimate. One of the most recent examples of this the bank manager in the United Arab Emirates who fell victim to a threat actor’s scam. Hackers used AI voice cloning to trick the bank manager into transferring $35million.
Hackers are able to do the same in politics too, creating fake, incriminating evidence against a candidate. However, Yocom-Piatt explained how blockchain technology can also be used here to combat the growing issue:
“There will be two steps that people have to take in order to make public statements that people can take seriously and actually put their weight behind.
“The first is they will have to sign any statement with some with some kind of cryptographic public key that’s attributed to them.
“The second step would be taking that signed statement, and anchoring it in the blockchain so that no one can claim you made it before or after that date. This makes it effectively impossible to fake.”