The Civil Constitution

The Civil Constitution outlines what does — and does not — constitute ethical journalism on Civil. All Newsrooms publishing content on the Civil protocol must adhere to the journalistic standards outlined by the Civil Constitution. Failure to do so can result in a Newsroom's (existing or prospective) status being challenged. If they're found to be in violation, they can be removed from the Civil Registry.

This initial version was drafted by the Civil Media Company, in close coordination with Civil's First Fleet Newsmakers, cryptoeconomic and legal advisors. It's a dynamic document that the Civil community will be able to amend in time.

Note that the open parameter tables at the end of the document will be finalized before Civil’s general launch.

Introduction

Civil is the decentralized marketplace for sustainable journalism, founded on the principle that a free and open press is essential to the preservation of a free, fair, and just society, and in the belief that global changes in technology, economics, and politics are endangering press freedom and press accountability.

The Civil marketplace is built on a protocol that in turn is built on the Ethereum blockchain.

The software enables:

  • The publishing or transmission of journalism and the permanent, unerasable archiving of work to the blockchain.
  • Journalists to find outlets for their work to reach the concerned public.
  • Journalists to find financial support from the public.
  • The public to find, fund, commission, consume or contribute to journalism.
  • The proliferation of complementary, interoperable software purpose-built for journalists and people who seek to support and engage with them.
  • The operation and governance of the protocol by its participants.

Civil is founded in the belief that a community of people who find the protocol useful will coalesce around it, and that that community ought to govern the protocol.

Civil is also founded for the specific purpose of promoting a more ethical and sustainable model for journalism. This document — the Civil Constitution — is intended to vest the maximum possible governing power over the protocol away from its inventor, The Civil Media Company, to its community of journalists and citizens, while safeguarding the protocol’s founding mission. The Civil Constitution will lay out Civil’s purpose and values, and serve as a framework for the protocol’s self-governance.

Specific, real-world interpretation of the purpose and values is beyond the scope of the Civil Constitution. The participants on the protocol, operating according to a transparent governing framework — also to be laid out in this Civil Constitution — must interpret them.

That framework, initially supplied by The Civil Media Company, will include provisions for the community to review, amend, and formally adopt this document within one year of the launch of the protocol, and to change it as needed over time to better promote the core values and purpose of Civil.

Key Terms

The Civil Constitution uses some specific terms, as well as common terms that have specific meaning within the Civil marketplace. These are defined below; many of them refer to bodies or organizations which will be treated in greater detail later in this document.

The Civil Media Company

The company that is working on launching the Civil protocol and ensuing marketplace businesses and related services. The protocol will be open-sourced and maintained by a community of programmers, which, at least initially, The Civil Media Company will lead and manage.

Civil

The protocol, the open source software, its users and, more broadly, the “ecosystem.”

CVL tokens

The cryptocurrency used to operate the Civil protocol. The Civil token (CVL) is an built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Token-holder

Any person or group that owns CVL in any amount. In some contexts in this document they may be called Participants.

The Protocol

The underlying, open-source smart-contract architecture of Civil.

The Community

All users in the Civil ecosystem, whether they hold tokens or not.

Newsmaker

A person who participates in the production of journalism for the Civil platform. Newsmakers can also be token-holders.

Newsroom

The basic functional unit for Newsmakers on Civil. A newsroom can be composed of a single Newsmaker or a group of Newsmakers. Newsrooms can also be token-holders.

Newsroom Officer

The representative authority of an individual Newsroom on Civil, which may be chosen in any way the Newsroom sees fit.

Roster

The list of Newsmakers associated with a Newsroom. (Newsmakers may appear on the rosters of multiple Newsrooms.)

Charter

The application submitted by Newsrooms for participation on Civil, which details the Newsroom’s mission, business model and roster, and pledges the Newsroom to uphold the Civil Constitution.

Civil Registry

The list of organizations whose Charters have been approved by Civil token-holders according to the process outlined in the Civil Constitution, below.

Civil Constitution

This document, and subsequent versions as amended by participants.

Civil Foundation

A completely independent non-profit instantiated and initially funded by The Civil Media Company, that is wholly dedicated to upholding and advocating the Civil Constitution’s purpose, values and principles both on-platform and off-platform. The Foundation also provides operating support and appoints the founding members of the Civil Council.

Civil Council

The literal appellate governing authority within the Civil protocol, whereby token-holders can surface severe disputes for possible adjudication. The Civil Council has the ability to overturn community decisions, but the community in turn has the power to veto the Council in certain extenuating circumstances. More about the mechanics below.

Civil’s Purpose

  1. Civil is dedicated above all else to the service of its citizens, who require freedom, fairness and justice, and therefore require conditions in which it is possible for journalism to perform its mission.
  2. Civil seeks to establish the conditions for journalism to fulfill that mission sustainably without interference from government, commercial or other special interests that may seek to influence, control or stop the gathering and dissemination of facts, opinions and ideas in the public sphere through unjust laws, economic pressure, intimidation or violence.
  3. Civil seeks to accomplish this through the establishment of a self-governing protocol built with blockchain and cryptoeconomics, creating a permanent and irrevocable global record of journalism while providing a publicly owned and operated method for holding journalists accountable and supporting their work directly.

Civil’s Core Values

A. Civil is committed to fair and equal access to the means of producing journalism.

  1. No person or group will be denied any position in the Civil ecosystem because of their religion, race, gender or gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability status.
  2. No person or group will be allowed to use the Civil protocol to incite the infliction of harm upon any other person or groups on the basis of their religion, race, gender or gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability status.

B. Civil is committed to the ethical practice of journalism.

Civil provides for the creation of a broad spectrum of journalistic work, which may include but will not be limited to formats such as audio, video, illustration, photography, data visualizations, animation and text; “straight” news reporting, long-form narrative journalism, opinion writing, advocacy journalism, and personal essays.

  1. Each of these formats is subject to different expectations from citizens. What all share is the requirement that anything presented as fact:
    • Is not known by the author of the work or those who publish that work to be nonfactual;
    • Has been subjected to reasonable efforts by the author of the work or those who publish that work to verify the truthfulness of that fact.
  2. Newsmakers and Newsrooms on the Civil Registry must not represent the work of other journalists, Newsmakers or Newsrooms as their own (plagiarism), nor re-publish or redistribute the work of other Newsmakers without their express approval (piracy).
  3. Civil is founded on a belief that transparency — including transparency about the identity of the people or groups that fund and create the work — is a core value of journalism, and necessary to its sound practice, in a wholly free society. This value should only be compromised to protect the safety of Newsmakers, whistleblowers and other sources from persecution and interference from governments or commercial or other powerful special interests that may seek to influence, control or stop the work through unjust laws, intimidation or violence. The degree of transparency also may be balanced against the desire to protect, where necessary, the privacy of individuals’ personal data.

Civil’s Governance

Civil Foundation

The Civil Media Company will instantiate and endow an independent, nonprofit organization to be called Civil Foundation, with the mission of upholding and advocating for the core values defined in the Civil Constitution.

  1. Civil Foundation will explore the most contentious and novel disputes faced throughout the ecosystem, releasing research into how they are resolved, while fighting for press freedom, press accountability and public-service journalism around the world with like-minded organizations and relevant collaborative efforts.
  2. Civil Foundation will have a dedicated staff to handle operations.
  3. Civil Foundation will house the Civil Council, whose activities and responsibilities are defined below.
  4. Civil Foundation’s primary objectives in the protocol’s first 365 days are to:
    • Begin a process of meaningful, global input from Civil protocol participants about the Constitution, the Council, and the evolutionary management of the protocol overall;
    • Propose a slate of amendments to the Constitution, including updates to its decentralized decision-making framework while protecting its values as the protocol scales, as well as a method for making amendments as a community going forward.
  5. By the 365th day after the protocol’s creation, token holders will vote either to ratify the slate of amendments, or to issue a continuing resolution for one more year.
  6. If failure to pass amendments within two years, Council members are terminated and allocated tokens are rescinded and reverted to The Civil Media Company, and The Civil Media Company becomes de facto Council until arrangements can be made to appoint and confirm via community vote new Council members.

Civil Constitution

This document must be referenced in support of any argument for limiting the access of any group or individual to the Civil protocol, whether that argument appears in a proposed Challenge, Vote, Appeal or Veto.

  1. Temporary Constitutional powers, before Ratification: This document is in force until such a time as it is amended and ratified by the community according to the process detailed above.

Votes

Any issue proposed for a vote on the protocol must be duly promulgated to all token-holders on the protocol. Unless otherwise specified in the Civil Constitution, all token-holders are eligible to participate in any vote held on the protocol. Unless otherwise specified in this document, all votes require a simple majority (more than 50 percent) to carry.

Appeals

Any vote may be appealed at any time by any token-holder, but only one appeal on a given vote may be entered at a time. Appeals are made to the Civil Council, whose majority vote on the matter is final and closes off any further possibility of appeal on the matter.

Veto

However, the community can override the decision with a supermajority, two-thirds vote.

  1. Powers and responsibilities
    • Civil Council may vote on appeals to any decision reached by Vote of the Civil token-holders.
    • Council members who vote in the majority must produce at least one public document outlining the Constitutional rationale for their decision; members who vote the same way for different reasons may agree to publish multiple such documents. Members who vote in the minority are free to publish one or more such documents.
    • Decisions of the Council in Year One are subject to a veto challenge and may be reversed by a two-thirds vote to veto by token holders.

Civil Registry

Access to the Civil protocol by Newsrooms (and possibly other organizations) is provided via the Civil Registry.

  1. Newsrooms that seek to establish themselves on Civil will be required to be listed on the Civil Registry, with only registered newsrooms having access to the ecosystem.
  2. Requirements for listing are to include:
  3. Provision of a Charter, a standardized form of which is to be maintained by the community and which specifies:
    • (i) The Newsroom’s journalistic mission
    • (ii) The Newsroom’s plans for how it will fund its work
    • (iii) The Newsroom’s plans for how it will direct that funding
    • (iv) The Newsroom’s Roster of Newsmakers
    • (v) Signatures from each Newsroom Officer to a pledge to abide by and uphold the Civil Constitution

    Depositing of CVL tokens according to a parameter to be maintained by token-holders.

  4. Any token-holder may challenge a Newsroom’s position on the Registry at any time by staking a matching deposit and specifying the reasons they believe the Newsroom is in violation of the Constitution, or evidence that all or some on the Newsroom’s roster have shown themselves unwilling or incapable of meeting those standards.
  5. If a Newsroom is challenged, all token-holders will be allowed to vote on whether they support the Newsroom or the challenger.
  6. If the vote is in favor of the Newsroom, the Newsroom will be allowed to remain on the Civil Registry, and the Challenger’s deposit will revert to the Newsroom and majority voters.
  7. If the vote is in favor of the Challenger, the Newsroom will be removed from the Civil Registry, and the Newsroom’s deposit will revert to the Challenger and majority voters.
  8. Prior to enacting these outcomes, anyone may appeal its case to the Civil Council, which is required to describe the Constitutional rationale for its decision with at least one public report, issued by the majority; it may at the discretion of its individual members produce multiple reports from Council members who voted with the majority, as well as one or more reports from members who voted with the minority.
  9. If the Council rejects the appeal, the community vote is processed as is. If the Council finds for the appeal, the community vote is overturned and outcomes reversed.
  10. The Council’s decision is subject to a two-thirds supermajority veto.

Conclusion

Civil is a social contract entered into by its network participants in service of supporting a free, open and sustainable press for all. That contract is embodied in this Statement of Core Values and Purpose and Framework, or Constitution, hereby the framework for steering consensus over all network-wide governance disputes, and upheld and amended as necessary by the Newsmakers and citizen participants who make up the community of token-holders.

Through the enactment and collective maintenance of the values and purpose expressed herein, the Civil community expects to see ethical and necessary journalism flourish as far into the future as a free, fair and just society will allow.

Appendix I: Year One Parameters

The table below details the time frames and deposit/escrow amounts in tokens used to make decisions on the Civil platform until a new Constitution is ratified by the Community, which may alter these parameters at that time: