The Civil white paper

Abstract

Civil is the decentralized communications protocol for journalists and citizens, launched by The Civil Media Company. The protocol limits the need for (and influence of) third parties like advertisers and centralized publisher conglomerates. The protocol aims to support independent newsrooms initially focused on producing high-quality local, international, investigative and policy journalism. In time, we envision a vast ecosystem of journalists, citizens and developers building products and services dedicated to powering sustainable journalism throughout the world.

Civil’s cryptoeconomic model seeks to enable a more direct, transparent relationship between journalists and citizens, while using blockchain to also strengthen protections for journalists against censorship and intellectual property violations. The goal of Civil is to create a sustainable, global marketplace for journalism that is free from manipulative ads, misinformation and outside influence. Civil will differ from current media companies, both platforms and publishers, where a centralized operator controls the distribution of content to the public. By improving transparency and autonomy through a decentralized approach, Civil aims to strengthen trust between citizens and traditional news reporting, creating a renewed appreciation for the value of financially supporting journalism directly.

Activity on the Civil protocol will be mediated through the Ethereum blockchain and a community of consumers, content creators, fact checkers and publishers, who work together to decide which newsrooms to organize and the types of content published on the network. Rather than a given platform or publisher dictating the content its readers can consume, a decentralized network of people curates newsrooms and content.

In order to achieve Civil’s decentralized goal, activity on the platform will be managed by an Ethereum blockchain-based token, CVL.

Introduction

Civil is the decentralized, Ethereum-based marketplace that aims to introduce a new, sustainable operating model for journalism predicated on two distinct features: economically incentivized self-governance and permanent recording of authorship and content (and soon, reputation). This approach promises to help revive a vitally important — and struggling — industry. In the process, Civil can also become one of the first truly consumer-facing applications of blockchain technology.

Journalists, or “newsmakers” as they’re known on Civil, will own and operate independent publications (“Newsrooms”) while retaining full autonomy over all editorial and business decisions. Newsrooms primarily seek compensation directly from the citizens they serve and possess full control of their revenue model, while The Civil Media Company earns no commission on any direct transaction between newsmakers and citizens. What’s more, citizens will be able to choose to compensate newsmakers in any currency, including fiat using traditional credit card processors as well as cryptocurrency (even CVL!) via web wallets.

To establish a high bar for quality content and discourse, all participants in the marketplace agree to abide by the Civil Constitution, a self-governed statement of purpose, values and code of conduct in keeping with our mission to power sustainable journalism throughout the world. This will not only help sustain a high quality filter as the community grows, but will also introduce economic incentives that reward individuals for launching quality Newsrooms, as well as those who flag individuals and actions that do not meet the standards laid out by the Civil Constitution. This approach will produce network-effects benefits for both newsmakers and citizens as the marketplace scales in service of our mission to power sustainable journalism throughout the world.

Civil is made possible by the convergence of two distinct trends:

  • the inability of the journalism industry, which largely relies on traditional and programmatic ad-driven models, to develop a more sustainable funding model for a digital economy;
  • the rise of blockchain technology, which enables new operating models that promote fair, decentralized standards and open new revenue channels.

There is a tremendous opportunity to introduce a new, sustainable model for journalists, who are unsatisfied with the current paradigm, which promotes a focus on satiating advertisers and chasing clicks, and which does not reward serving their communities above all else.

To better understand this convergence — and how it can pave the way to a powerful new platform economy that brings journalism back to its core values — it’s important to first take a closer look at the dire state of the journalism industry in 2018, and how it came to this point.

An Industry in Transition

Journalism is a critical pillar of free, fair and just societies. It plays a vital role in exposing corruption, promoting accountability and giving a voice to marginalized populations.

Today, it’s also an industry in crisis. With few exceptions, publishers are struggling to remain viable as they navigate the transition from a print- to digital-based economy. The advent of the Information Age has introduced new paradigms that have made it prohibitively difficult for publications to sustain themselves on the ad-driven model that was so effective for the duration of the print journalism era. This environment has caused mass uncertainty, layoffs and market consolidation in the journalism industry, and has severely limited the public’s access to quality journalism — especially at the local, international, policy and investigative levels.

Print newspapers have been struggling mightily for decades as readers, advertisers and publishers have increasingly migrated to digital channels. While logic may dictate that the demand for digital reporters would follow suit, that has not been the case. According to the Columbia Journalism Review’s analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 66,000 newspaper reporters or editors employed in 2005. Over the next ten years, more than 25,000 of those journalists left that workforce, a decline of more than 38 percent. During the same time period, the number of journalists at digital-only publishers grew by just 7,000.

Newspapers decline over time chart

But even as journalists have struggled to make ends meet in this climate, the media industry at large has profited handsomely from the shift to digital. Search engine and social media giants have emerged as the ultimate middlemen in today’s model: as their platforms continue to grow, so too does their already-commanding influence over publishers. Journalists have to spend outsized time and resources focusing on how to cater their content to audiences on platforms owned by third parties. Together, Facebook and Google form a duopoly that commands between 60 and 70 percent of ad market share in the U.S. alone. This is even more alarming when one considers that the five most popular destinations for gathering news are: Google, Facebook, Youtube (owned by Google), Twitter (a major Google partner) and Instagram (owned by Facebook) — none of which self-identify as media companies.

This has resulted in a dire state, driven by mass consolidation and constantly shifting models seeking to optimize ad revenue. Just six corporations control more than 90 percent of American media outlets — a phenomenon that’s similarly playing out around the world. Public trust in the media is at an all-time low. By and large, publishers prioritize attracting web traffic at scale due to its direct correlation with ad revenue, a pernicious influence over editorial decision-making. This “clicks for cash” model has also given rise to a cottage industry of sensationalist publications that place outsized value on attention-grabbing headlines and polarizing themes — and has increased pressure on the rest of the industry to follow suit, or face irrelevance.

Local, international, policy and investigative reporting — longtime mainstays of high-quality journalism — are increasingly rare practices in this climate. While these important subject matters can and traditionally have driven major social change, they’re also among the least cost-effective — and currently endangered — forms of reporting to maintain under ad-driven, scale-at-all-costs revenue models.

Pioneering a New Approach

Civil is introducing a new solution that leverages the Ethereum blockchain and cryptoeconomics to take third-party interests out of the equation and allow newsmakers to run their own operations, and be accountable to their communities alone. Civil is the decentralized marketplace for independent newsrooms initially focused on local, international, policy and investigative journalism. It seeks to restore journalism’s eroding presence for severely underserved communities and to ensure mission alignment among all participants, including citizens and newsmakers, from day one.

Although Civil will be radically different from centralized platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for many reasons, it will also leverage many of the same strategic advantages of platform dynamics to help source, match-make and distribute value among the participants in a fair, open and honest manner. Each new newsroom will create additional value for the broader user base (people will soon find credible news about everything on Civil), while newsrooms also realize the benefit of plugging into a growing network of global citizens.

To ensure that its marketplace would produce a diverse array of quality journalism from day one, The Civil Media Company has allocated $1MM USD in grants to support a “First Fleet” of more than 100 full-time, veteran journalists across approximately 15 newsrooms.

This population is driven by newsmakers from well-respected publications including The New Yorker, LA Times, BBC, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Gawker and DNAinfo, among others. Building up a large stable of talented journalists for the Civil platform launch ensures citizens will experience a robust content assortment and engaged community on day one. Once the platform is live, anyone may apply to start a newsroom on Civil.

Applying to Start a Civil Newsroom

To gain access to the Civil marketplace, a prospective newsroom must take four steps:

  • Submit a “Mission” outlining the newsroom’s purpose, its intended community, its plans for how it will generate funding from the community, and how it will direct that funding.
  • Submit a “Roster,” including any relevant credentials for those leading and working within the proposed newsroom.
  • Sign the Civil Constitution as a pledge to abide by its guidelines.
  • Stake CVL tokens, the software that connects the Civil platform to the Ethereum blockchain — and which manages all transactions tied to the platform’s self-governence.

All Civil network participants (defined as CVL token owners) are notified of new applications. If they believe a prospective (or existing) newsroom violates any of the ethical values outlined in the Civil Constitution, they can challenge its ability to appear on the Civil Registry by staking tokens. The larger CVL token-holder community is then notified of the challenge and a vote will take place, also via CVL tokens, with a simple majority required for consensus.

Only community-approved newsrooms can publish content on Civil. Beyond introducing a new manner for supporting quality journalism, this token-curated registry process introduces economic incentives for ensuring a high-quality filter for all journalism published on Civil. Much more detail on this model appears later in this white paper.

Community Checks and Balances

The Civil Constitution

Civil is founded on the principle that a free and open press is an essential element of the foundation of a free, fair, and just society; and in the belief that global change in technology, economics, and politics have altered the basic conditions that provide for its fulfillment of that purpose.

Civil’s protocol will be operated and governed by its participants — citizens and newsmakers alike — while protecting Civil’s core values and purpose. Civil is a community with a specific mission: promoting sustainable journalism. The Civil Constitution is a framework for defining what does — and does not — constitute ethical journalism on Civil. It is the foundation for the entire network and will drive Civil’s self-governance and community consensus.

Specific interpretations of the core values and purpose will be the work of the community, operating according to a transparent governing framework. That framework will include provisions for the community to change this document as needed (i.e. “amendments”) to better promote the core values and purpose of Civil.

Participants in the Civil protocol should always seek community-directed solutions to problems and conflicts that arise on the network. The Civil Media Company pledges to build and develop the software to power that community-driven conflict resolution, though our open-source technology will allow others to build supporting services as well.

There will inevitably be conflicts between parties on the network that cannot be resolved using available tools, or because one or more of Civil’s core values come into conflict. In those cases, the community may propose other solutions — either by building software or seeking to establish new processes to address unforeseen conflicts. Or the matter may be appealed to the Civil Council, an independent body dedicated to upholding and interpreting the core ethical values outlined by the Civil Constitution, for review.

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. Civil Foundation will house the Civil Council, a protocol oversight body comprised of free speech lawyers, veteran journalists and journalism scholars.

The Foundation will provide operational support to The Council, which will act as an appeals body capable of overturning community decisions if found to be in direct violation of the Civil Constitution. These should be rare, precedent-setting events that will inform the community in future votes — and can only be vetoed by a two-thirds vote from the community (see parameters outlined later in this paper). All Council decisions (and dissenting opinions among Councilmembers) will be published for community review.

Civil Council Initial Iteration

The Civil Media Company is instantiating an independent, non-profit Civil Foundation to house the voting members of the Civil Council as well as support staff such as researchers, auditors and translators. This entity will need to evolve in the following, community-led ways over time:

Scale — This entity will need to grow in a correlative fashion with the network size in order to manage the increasing number of appeals, amendments, and general platform issues.

Diversity — This entity will need fresh new faces/voices over time in order to remain a representative body for the network at large, especially as we become more global in nature.

Decentralization — This entity should move beyond its Civil Media Company handpicked inception toward a future where its largely representative of the network at large, possibly through elections or similarly democratic procedures.

Resources — This entity will need to finance its operations in order to maintain quality oversight over time. The community will need to determine the best method for this entity to generate sustainable operating capital without creating points of weakness or misalignment.

The Civil Media Company does not expect to answer all these questions ahead of its general launch, and recognizes the importance of realizing community consensus around the Civil Council’s long term role. Therefore, the Foundation and Council will be tasked with sourcing global input and proposing a set of amendments to the Constitution to be ratified within the first two years after launch.

The process will look like this:

Timeline for Civil Council

To ensure the Council is properly incentivized, tokens allocated to founding Council members will undergo the following restrictions:

  • 2 years fully unrestricted;
  • 50 percent after year one, if and only if Constitutional proposals are ratified after Year One;
  • 100 percent after year two, if and only if Constitutional proposals ratified by Year Two;
  • If failure to pass any proposals within two years, voting members are terminated from Council, tokens are rescinded and reverted to The Civil Media Company, which becomes de facto Council until arrangements can be made to appoint and confirm via community vote new voting members.
  • It should be noted that — perhaps counterintuitively — this actually would be a disastrous result for The Civil Media Company. Clearly, the community would prefer not to see The Civil Media Company resume centralized control over this critical oversight function, and so this would likely crater trust in the protocol and thus the value of the CVL token. It’s absolutely within our best interest to see that the Council becomes decentralized through community consensus — this is how The Civil Media Company will truly maximize its business potential and long-term sustainability.

Core Product

The Ethereum blockchain plays a foundational role in Civil’s model: it enables the creation of a custom token, CVL, which is based on the ERC20 protocol. The token is a value stored in a decentralized database that’s managed by Civil’s smart contracts, which allows the Civil platform to interact with the CVL token. In essence, CVL is the software that bridges Civil with the Ethereum blockchain. It’s vital to Civil’s overall model, as it unlocks two vital business features for newsmakers: self-governance and permanent archiving.

Civil will offer four core experiences for its users in its initial iteration:

Business center

The first place a newsmaker goes upon earning access to Civil’s platform. Here they may manage permissions for their workforce, manage their public account information and visual brand identity, define and price editorial products, manage their finances, and review the performance analytics.

Content management system

A modern drafting experience that will, among other features, allow newsmakers to permanently record the authorship provenance and publish the text of an article directly to the blockchain by simply checking a box.

Citizen reader

Where people discover and consume good journalism on Civil. Newsrooms are the primary brand throughout the citizen user experience, with newsmakers possessing lightweight abilities to customize their visual brand identity. Citizens will enjoy an intuitive reading experience, including specific features designed to increase media literacy and to make it quick and easy to compensate newsrooms. One such feature is Credibility Indicators: simple visual cues that represent different elements that went into the reporting of a given story (e.g. on-the-ground reporting, stories containing original reporting, whether the reporter is a subject matter expert). This approach aims to start conditioning citizens to ask critical questions about how and why a given story was reported, not just on Civil but anywhere.

The Civil Registry

The Civil Registry is a self-governing, token-curated whitelist of newsrooms that have been approved to publish content on Civil’s platform. To access the Civil Registry, a prospective Newsroom must submit a journalistic mission, a newsroom roster, sign the Civil Constitution and stake CVL tokens to state the seriousness of their intent. Any community member may mount a challenge to new or existing applicants via CVL tokens. In the near future, this registry model will expand significantly and be the self-governance system for every organization operating within the Civil ecosystem.

The CVL Token Economy

The Civil Media Company has built its product suite around a user-based design model. Everything on Civil is built with an eye towards making the process of supporting quality journalism as intuitive as possible. The underlying, token-based economy that powers the larger Civil marketplace, meanwhile, is entirely predicated on new business models unlocked by the advent of Ethereum and its decentralized nature. Tokens are the software by which key decisions on Civil will be made. A large community of CVL token holders will power these decisions.

It’s important to note that holding CVL tokens — or even having an existing knowledge of, or will to purchase, cryptocurrency is not a prerequisite for experiencing a newsroom that runs on Civil. Newsrooms will be able to accept compensation from the communities they serve in any currency preferred by the end consumer (e.g. USD, EUR via credit cards; ETH, CVL via web wallets). Civil is offering such an expansive model for one simple reason: our core mission is to make quality journalism as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. A working knowledge of blockchain and cryptocurrency should not — and will not — be a barrier to entry for citizens.

CVL tokens will play a vital role in the governance of newsrooms and the platform as a whole, and many members of the community — including newsmakers, citizens and developers — will elect to use them to participate in the governance of Civil’s protocol from day one. For citizens, the decision to do so is entirely optional, and the majority of Civil citizens may not elect to interact with Civil at this level at first. That’s entirely up to them; for some, Civil can be a marketplace for great journalism, and nothing more. For others, it can be a massive ecosystem in which participants are economically incentivized to promote good behavior that helps the platform grow and thrive, while keeping bad actors off of it.

This concept is known as the “Waterline.”

Waterline graphic

Readers and supporters, the largest contingent of Civil’s citizen userbase, will visit newsrooms on Civil solely to access and support good journalism. Civil’s protocol participants, those using CVL tokens in the governance mechanisms, will exist underneath the Waterline. As CVL token holders, they will have the ability to vote on key decisions, including whether newsrooms meet the criteria and ethics laid out in the Civil Constitution. To unlock access to Civil’s marketplace, newsrooms will need to gain community consensus that they will be a good actor on the platform — and to be added to a whitelist of approved newsmakers.

Incentivizing Community Developers

In addition to the newsmakers, developers from the community will also play a central role at the “creator” level, which sits at the heart of Civil’s ecosystem. As the community grows, so too will demand for new software tools and professional services, all of which should also be subject to the same set of ethics and standards as newsrooms. This will be a way to quickly and effectively establish trust for the growing volume of tools and services that will be built on Civil, and begin to foster an app store-like economy that incentivizes screening for ethical developers, just as the current iteration does for newsmakers.

Civil is committed to building a large and active developer community. The Civil Media Company will open source the code for all of its citizen-facing software and make it accessible on its GitHub page.

An Overview of the Civil Registry

To better illustrate this system of self-governance, known as a token-curated registry (known as “The Civil Registry” on Civil), consider the following example. A prospective newsmaker applies to launch a newsroom on Civil. Their ultimate goal is to be added to the Civil Registry, which unlocks marketplace access for their newsroom on Civil.

Their application will outline the newsroom’s mission, roster, intended community, how it seeks to generate financial support from the community, and how it plans to direct that funding. The Newsroom Officers will also pledge to abide by the Civil Constitution to the best of their ability at all times. Finally, to state the seriousness of its intent, the prospective newsroom will deposit CVL tokens to activate the application process according to a parameter managed by the community. CVL token-holders will be notified of new applications. If the prospective newsroom demonstrates a viable application and no red flags emerge, the community takes no action, and the newsroom is added to the Civil Registry after a finite review period.

If, however, the newsroom elicits concern according to the Civil Constitution, then a CVL token-holder can — and likely will — challenge their place on the Civil Registry. To do so, they’ll match the prospective newsmaker’s CVL deposit with one of their own. The challenger should base their argument around one or multiple aspects of the Civil Constitution of which the prospective Newsroom appears to be in violation.

All CVL token-holders will then have an opportunity to vote whether they support the newsroom or the challenger, and their primary motivation will be to optimize for the highest quality Civil Registry possible. Doing so will lead to marketplace growth and sustainability overall, the value of which will be captured into the protocol’s baseline token, CVL.

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. 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.

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.

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. The Council’s decision is subject to a two-thirds supermajority veto. Broadly speaking, token voters are incentivized to vote in accordance with their shared understanding of the Civil Constitution; they’re rewarded for voting with the majority and ensuring that the Civil Registry effectively curates high-quality, trustworthy journalism.

This cryptoeconomic model incentivizes participation and adherence to “good behavior” and makes it prohibitively difficult for bad actors and actions — Sybil attacks, spammers, trolls, those actively propagating misinformation — to gain access and flourish on Civil.

The Civil Registry will initially be a self-governing system for approving high-quality newsrooms, but can scale to govern many other activities that occur on the platform, including supporting networks that aggregate cross-newsroom content, fact-checking, licensing, etc. This model ensures that an interdependence forms between citizens and newsmakers, and that each party is incentivized to maintain high standards as Civil’s ecosystem expands.

Challenges to the Civil Registry

Civil seeks to incorporate an “expert oracle” into its token-curated registry design to ensure community decisions remain as closely oriented to the Civil Constitution as possible. However, it will also seek to implement a cryptoeconomically robust system where participants are properly incentivized to participate and maintain the ultimate authority over the protocol.

With that in mind, a quick overview of how this system of checks and balances — incorporating the Civil Constitution, the Civil Council and community consensus — will work:

Appeals & Vetos

  • Any token holder may appeal the result of a Newsroom Challenge by staking a Council Deposit;
  • Any token holder may initiate a veto challenge to the Council’s decision by staking a matching Council Deposit;
  • Vetos must receive two-thirds supermajority in order to overturn Council decisions;
  • This is the only method by which the Council can affect the Newsroom Registry.

Parameters & Amendments

  • Any token holder may propose and challenge changes to Civil’s dynamic parameters by staking a Parameter Deposit;
  • Civil will create a Civil Constitution contract to which the Civil Registry links. This contract points to the text of the Constitution and the Civil Council. The Civil Media Company will put the Civil Council in charge of that contract. Once an updated Constitution is ratified, the Civil Constitution contract will transfer to reference the new version, which would contain the logic for voting on amendments, Council members, etc.;
  • Any token holder may propose and challenge Constitutional Amendments by staking an Amendment Deposit;
  • Any token holder may initiate a veto challenge to the Council’s decision re: Amendment proposals by staking a matching Amendment Deposit;
  • Vetos must receive two-thirds supermajority in order to overturn Council decisions;
  • This is the only method by which the Constitution may be amended: 1) community proposal, 2) Council ratification, 3) community acceptance.
  • Note: the “Amendment” system will not be implemented at launch; it will come shortly after;

Defining Parameters for the Civil Registry

Note: the “starting values” are still being determined ahead of Civil’s general launch. We’re soliciting community input in the open beta version of the Civil Constitution and will update these parameters ahead of Civil’s governance launch.

Parameters for the Civil registry

Technical Details of the Civil Registry

Initially, the token curated registry system will be intended for “newsroom” contracts. Functionally this is a token curated registry of Ethereum addresses (which either point to a Newsroom contract or are ignored/removed). Civil’s Monorepo is located at:

Listing Definition

A listing is simply an address that corresponds to a newsroom contract as well as the data required to track state of the listing (deposit, whitelisted/denied, etc). The newsroom contract will contain necessary links to the newsroom’s application displayed on the Civil Registry to help token holders make informed decisions when reviewing applications, whitelisted newsrooms, or challenges.

Contract Design Overview

  • Civil has forked the token-curated registry created by Mike Goldin and AdChain from https://github.com/skmgoldin/tcr/blob/master/contracts/Registry.sol and make a few modifications.
  • Rather than using bytes32 hashes as keys, we will use addresses that correspond to contracts.
  • We will modify the application process so that a contract can only be applied to the TCR by their owner. This means that contracts that apply to the TCR must implement the “Owned” interface.
  • Add transactions for Civil Council functionality (granting appeals, reversing community decisions)
  • Support the Appeal and Veto functionalities

A graphical representation the challenge process:

How a challenge works on the Civil registry

The Civil Ecosystem Vision

Civil is committed to powering sustainable journalism throughout the world. To realize this vision, it needs to build technology, ship products, attract network participants (newsmakers, citizens, developers), and scale ethically on behalf of the whole community. This will require growing the core team at The Civil Media Company, but as much as possible it must stimulate third-party projects in order to catalyze rapid growth and truly achieve decentralization.

In this spirit, The Civil Media Company seeks to establish several different organizational areas of growth in order to fuel the totality of our Civil ecosystem vision.

Civil Foundation

The Civil Media Company will instantiate an independent, non-profit to house the voting members of the Civil Council as well as support staff such as researchers, auditors and translators. It’s an independent organization established by The Civil Media Company to uphold and advocate for the journalistic ethics outlined in the Civil Constitution. The Civil Foundation will seek prominent journalism academics, outspoken free press lawyers, and veteran professional journalists to join a “founding” Civil Council. Over time, the Civil Council will evolve through some form of community governance.

Civil Newsroom Mutual

Civil is committed to ensuring protection for newsmakers from frivolous litigations and malicious intent by creating a media liability insurance company cooperatively owned by newsrooms. Journalists should be able to operate freely and without fear of excessive legal action in the pursuit of producing ethical journalism.

The Civil Media Company

The founding for-profit entity in this ecosystem has three primary mandates:

  1. Serve the mission, values and ethos of Civil as thought leaders for the ecosystem,
  2. Develop new and innovative uses for blockchain and cryptoeconomics,
  3. Scale and optimize our marketplace businesses.

At the protocol level (i.e. technology foundation), we will serve as core maintainers to ensure the scalability and security of our CVL token software, though this will also be open-sourced and we’ll encourage vast community involvement. At the application level, we will operate in a free market to create value for the Civil network participants through new products, tools, widgets and professional services. Some of these efforts may “spin out” as independent organizations if they reach “escape velocity”, while others may remain forever embedded within The Civil Media Company.

What matters most is that while The Civil Media Company may possess what amounts to a first-mover advantage within the ecosystem, it has no monopoly or centralized control over the end users, and thus is motivated to develop the absolute best products and services on the market at all times in order to prosper. Should The Civil Media Company ever falter financially in the future, the ecosystem and protocol shall go on due to its open-source and decentralized marketplace infrastructure. Of course, the company’s intention is to contribute value to the network for a long time to come.

Civil Studios

This is a for-profit entity established by The Civil Media Company, motivated to pilot and fund marquee works of journalism (“Civil Originals” a la “Netflix Originals”). Civil Studios seeks white spaces with big upside (e.g. podcasts, documentaries, big names), acting as a producer investing for upside and providing high-level support but not directly involved in the legwork.

Civil Labs

This is a for-profit entity established by The Civil Media Company, developing software apps, tools and widgets for the Civil ecosystem. Civil Labs seeks to stimulate our developer ecosystem and consumer/enterprise “app store” through mission-aligned investments with significant potential upside, working as half R&D lab (internal moonshots) and half accelerator (support other entrepreneurial ventures).

Who’s Behind Civil

The Civil Media Company

CEO; Co-founderMatthew Iles

Matthew studied journalism at Duke University before embarking on an entrepreneurial career in digital marketing and innovative business modeling. He long imagined it possible to harness both the wildly explosive power of an open discourse platform along with the financial and behavioral incentives of a global cooperative, and first wrote about the concept behind Civil in November 2016.

Beyond advocating for sustainable journalism, Matthew also believes deeply in evolutionary organizational methods over traditional command-and-control hierarchies. At Civil, Matthew and the team practice what he originally coined Synchronicity — a cascading, distributed leadership model predicated on vast common knowledge, continuous realignment and a deep appreciation for everyone's personal self-identity. He owes much of his career success to his wife and prior entrepreneurial partner Katie Iles. They live in Brooklyn with their dog Emma.

When not working on Civil, Matthew enjoys reading science fiction, cooking and playing board games with Katie, and exploring New York City's and the Hudson Valley's best restaurants and bars.

Operations Lead; Co-founderLillian Ruiz

Lillian has nine years experience in digital marketing, audience development and brand and business strategy. At Civil, Lillian works on the Alignment and Operations team developing strategy and tactics for large-scale project execution and resource management.

Prior to Civil, Lillian was senior director of growth and product optimization at InsideHook. There, she developed and implemented strategy to convert the email business into a full-suite digital publisher. Prior to InsideHook, Lillian launched the Girl Scouts of the USA's first social media marketing strategy, winning the company's first Overall Grand Champion and Category Champion in the Large Business division of the Social Media Leadership Awards. She also helped re-brand New York cult favorite brands Flavorwire and Flavorpill.

Lillian holds a B.A. in History from Wesleyan University. Outside of the office she is the lead singer and co-manager of probably the sickest cover band in New York City. Don't invite her to your karaoke parties.

Communications Lead; Co-founderMatt Coolidge

With more than a decade of experience spanning both the tech and federal sectors, Matt drives brand strategy across Civil's ecosystem, including communications and content.

Prior to Civil, Matt was a vice president at Bateman Group, an award-winning public relations firm, where he helped lead the agency's financial and developer tech practices out of its New York office. Previously, he was a marketing and communications consultant based in San Francisco, working primarily with early stage technology startups. He began his career at a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm working with non-profit science and technology organizations. He holds a B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University.

In his spare time, Matt loves to ski, hike, write and travel; he once spent six months doing all four across Southeast Asia and the Middle East, which he covered on his (poorly maintained) blog.

Business Development Lead, Co-founderDaniel Sieberg

Daniel Sieberg is a co-founder and leads business development at Civil. He has more than 25 years of experience working at the intersection of technology and journalism.

Daniel previously worked at Google in NYC as founder of Google for Media and head of training and development for the Google News Lab, which is Google's global team responsible for liaising with the editorial side of newsrooms to drive innovation and new forms of storytelling. He previously spent 20 years as a science and technology reporter and analyst for the likes of CNN, CBS News, ABC News, Details, MSNBC, the Vancouver Sun and BBC America. Sieberg has been nominated for 5 National News & Documentary Emmy Awards and is the recipient of a Peabody Award as part of CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. His first book, The Digital Diet (Crown), was published in 2011 and reprinted in several countries. He holds a M.J. from the University of British Columbia and a B.F.A. from the University of Victoria.

When not thinking about the future of journalism Daniel spends time doing spin classes, traveling and hanging out with his wife and daughters in Brooklyn.

Product Design Lead; Co-founderNguyet Vuong

Nguyet leads product design at Civil, including user research, interface design and product strategy. Nguyet has more than a decade of experience working as a designer and creative director across industries such as publishing, hospitality, nonprofit, and media.

Prior to Civil, Nguyet was Creative Director of Product at Atlantic 57, The Atlantic's creative agency/consultancy based out of Washington, D.C. There, she led the design and launch of digital products for the agency's mission-driven clients. Her work on The Cancer Atlas, The Cancer Society's interactive data visualization website, was nominated as a finalist of The Webby Awards, People's Choice Webby Award, and The Digiday Awards for “Best Use of Multimedia for Storytelling” in 2015. Previously, Nguyet led user experience design at Sabre Hospitality Solutions, where she was part of a team that designed the first web-based booking engine for luxury hotels and resorts, as well as other award-winning websites. Nguyet holds a B.A. from University of Maryland, College Park.

When she's not obsessing over understanding user needs, Nguyet enjoys painting watercolor portraits, training to run races, and having travel adventures like cage diving with sharks in South Africa or hiking in Peru.

Newsroom Strategy and Sustainability Lead; Co-founderNicole Bode

Nicole is responsible for recruiting and supporting first fleet newsrooms on the Civil platform, including helping them thrive and overcome challenges.

Nicole has spent the past 17 years as a reporter and editor in New York City, including as a founding member and Managing Editor of DNAinfo, an award-winning news site that served readers in New York and Chicago before its closure in 2017. During her tenure, the site earned awards from the Deadline Club, New York Press Club and Newswomen's Club of New York, among others. She also served as DNAinfo's first Data Visualizations Editor, and oversaw breaking news as well as day-to-day newsroom operations.

Previously, Nicole spent eight years as a reporter at the New York Daily News, where she covered criminal justice, education and local, national and international breaking news. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University and is currently an adjunct journalism professor at the New School's News and Narrative Design program.

Nicole loves drawing, comic books and illustration, as well as laughing at Peppa Pig with her husband and young son.

Partnerships & Community Lead; Co-founderChristine Mohan

Christine has 25 years of experience with media and technology firms in New York City, Boston and Washington DC. At Civil she manages partnerships and community, facilitates social media, and organizes national and international industry events.

She spent 12 years at The New York Times Company and The Wall Street Journal in corporate communications, product marketing and web operations roles. Earlier, Christine oversaw the digital and sales teams for DeSales Media Group, where she created and launched a network of 100 websites across Brooklyn and Queens. She also founded Mohan Media Inc., providing PR and marketing for consumer and technology brands including Tiffany & Co., WordPress.com and Business Insider. Christine holds a bachelor's degree from the College of the Holy Cross.

Christine is an avid golfer and voracious reader — just not at the same time.

Engineering Lead; Co-founderDan Kinsley

Dan leads the Engineering team at Civil. He brings over a decade of experience growing early stage companies and building highly scalable systems.

Before Civil, Dan was building an e-commerce business accelerator at Launch and helped bring the luxury shoe brand M.Gemi to market. Prior to that he founded Surf, a streaming media aggregation company. He cut his teeth at Thinking Phone Networks (now Fuze), where he helped grow the business from 15 to more than 200 employees.

When Dan isn’t writing code, he can be found cycling, cooking or playing guitar (poorly). As a new father, he is honing his diaper changing skills and perfecting his dad Jokes.

Product Designer; Co-founderJulia Himmel

Julia is a product designer at Civil. She brings five years of experience designing and developing for the web.

Prior to Civil, Julia worked at Berlin ed-tech startup CareerFoundry, where she took core features from research through prototyping and user testing, then built them with a small team of developers. Before that, she honed her design skills working on print projects for both new startups and companies such as Time Warner. She holds a BA from Columbia University.

A former wine professional, Julia still enjoys food and wine when she's not designing experiences for journalists and readers. She also spends her free time volunteering in local politics, reading sci-fi novels and seeing art.

Ethereum Engineer; Developer Community LeadOlaf Tomalka

Olaf has more than seven years experience as a world-class engineer, and has been working with Ethereum and its communities since early 2017. He brings his experience and passion — as well as a healthy dash of business sense — to Civil, where he's focused on smart contracts and liaising with its growing developer community.

Previously, Olaf was a co-founder, CTO and majority shareholder for Boson Identities, a blockchain startup. There, he worked on decentralized identities using Ethereum as well as Getline.in brand, a decentralized, peer-to-peer lending protocol. He led the technological stack, a team of more than 20 people, and created a community of more than 5,000 cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

During the nights, Olaf suits ups and each month organizes the biggest Blockchain Dev conference in Poland, with which attracts more than 500 developers on average.

Traveling the world on a single backpack as a digital nomad, his goal for 2018 is to visit 12 countries.

EngineerWalker Flynn

Walker is a front-end engineer at Civil. He has five years of experience working on various parts of the web development stack and two years as a product designer.

Before Civil, he was a senior front-end developer on the frameworks and infrastructure team at 1stdibs. Before that, he worked for XO Group and Evisors as a software engineer and Inch inc. as a product designer. He studied furniture design at RISD.

Outside of Civil, Walker enjoys walking. It's what he was born to do. Beyond eponymic activity, he likes drawing, climbing, and building things in his studio.

Ethereum EngineerNick Reynolds

Nick is an engineer at Civil focused on writing smart contracts and the tools to interact with them. Prior to Civil, Nick was a full-stack engineer at Zynga working on massively multiplayer online games. Nick was responsible for implementing server-side logic and validation as well as client side views and inputs for numerous gameplay features, as well as designing several social features. Nick has a BSE in Digital Media Design from The University of Pennsylvania.

In his free time, Nick enjoys playing games (both board and video) and traveling. He has trekked through the world’s largest cave.

EngineerJorge Lopez

Jorge is an engineer at Civil. Before joining Civil, Jorge worked at a multitude of startups such as Bark, Refinery29, and Etsy. He was the first engineer at Refinery29 and built their first content management system. He also played an instrumental role in relaunching The New Republic under Chris Hughes.

When not pressing buttons on a keyboard, Jorge enjoys spending time at his home in Bushwick with his wife, two dogs and two cats.

Technologist-in-ResidencePeter Ng

Peter is a Technologist-in-Residence at Civil. He has more than 15 years of experience working on a multitude of tech stacks and platforms.

Previously, Peter was working at Digg where he the led backend, data, and API engineering. Prior to Digg, he was at the New York Times for many years in where he held several roles including leading the engineering team behind the iOS app and exploring the future of media and commercializing ideas out of the NYT R&D Lab. He has also held engineering roles at Kargo and DoubleClick.

Peter holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University. Outside of the office, he enjoys guitar, karaoke, travel and time well spent with his wife and dog.

Technologist-in-ResidenceInna Shteinbuk

Inna is a technologist-in-residence working on data science and machine learning initiatives at Civil. Prior to Civil, Inna was at Digg as a Data Scientist, where she implemented and put their first machine learning models into production. She holds an M.S. from both Cornell University and The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in Physics from CUNY.

In her free time, Inna enjoys climbing, yoga, making kimchi and kombucha, and planning for her next outdoor trip.

Technologist-in-ResidenceJon Ferrer

Jon brings nearly 15 years of experience building products for the web to his role as a technologist-in-residence at Civil.

Before joining Civil, Jon spent 6 years working on Digg with a focus on architecting and developing intuitive, performant user interfaces. Prior to Digg, he spent six years at Major League Baseball Advanced Media, where he directed a team of UI developers in addition to individually contributing to various products and features, ranging from multimedia, live stat-tracking, and partner projects. He holds a B.S. in Management Science and Information Systems from Penn State University.

Away from his computer, Jon enjoys thinking about what he's going to cook and/or eat next — which is most likely ramen or pizza — and playing guitar way too loudly.

Technologist-in-ResidenceSarah Ruddy

Sarah is a technologist-in-residence at Civil focusing on Front-end Engineering. She has over 10 years of experience developing for news and media organizations.

Before Civil, Sarah worked at Digg where she developed user interfaces focused on user retention. Prior to Digg she spent 5 years working at New York Magazine where she worked on various projects from strategizing and developing components for their custom CMS to helping lead the award winning data visualization and interactive team. She holds a B.S. in Digital Media from Drexel University.

In her spare time Sarah likes kickboxing. listening to way too many podcasts, and biking and eating her way around the world.

Technologist-in-ResidenceToby Fox

Toby has been building stuff on computers for 15 years and building stuff on the internet for 8, and now builds stuff on top of a blockchain as a technologist-in-residence at Civil.

Before that, Toby spent 4 years at Digg working on social, publishing, syndication, monetization, and internet plumbing projects. He also co-created intelligent note-taking tool Headsoak, builds web apps and art projects with small freelance team Genius Toast, and worked on hardware, firmware, and software as co-founder of medical device company Avantari. Toby has an M.S. in Computer Science from Oxford University and a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College.

In reality the Toby you might meet is a high-functioning clone placed in NYC, while the original lives out of a small backpack on top of a mountain telemark skiing, self-experimenting, meditating, and coding procedurally generated interactive fiction.

Creative-in-ResidenceRobert Okrzesik

Robert is a creative-in-residence at Civil. He brings over 10 years of knowledge creating meaningful experiences across various contexts of product design, editorial/interactive pieces, and visual systems.

Previously, Robert was leading design and setting creative direction at Digg. Prior to Digg, he was a Product Designer at Microsoft under the GroupMe team working on their mobile efforts, and at Google Creative Lab contributing to various product and marketing initiatives. He also worked at various companies such as Dow Jones and Tank Design. He holds a B.F.A. from The College of New Jersey.

Robert enjoys spending his free time tinkering on cars and bikes — essentially anything with wheels — and eating sandwiches.

Brand MarketerMegan Libby

Megan Libby is responsible for Civil's brand marketing, events and communications. Before joining Civil, Megan was running marketing and community strategy at an EdTech blockchain startup while simultaneously completing an M.S. in Mass Communication at Boston University. She also holds a B.A. in Global Economics from UC Santa Cruz.

In her free time, Megan enjoys yoga, backcountry backpacking, backcountry cooking, travel, and running long distances.

Product LeadNaima Jinnah

With nearly a decade of experience across technology, policy, legal and business operations, Naima has deep experience organizing and building teams in startup environments.

Previously, Naima was the COO and product lead at Digg.com (http://digg.com/) where she led product initiatives focused on revenue and editorial growth, as well as R&D and enterprise initiatives focused on automated content curation utilizing ML and NLP. She has also worked with voter education NGOs, which reinforced the existence of information blockers as a result of stale political incumbencies and social media echo-chambers. Naima holds a B.S. in Legal Studies with minors in Economics, Humanities, and Paralegal Studies from Nova Southeastern University in South Florida.

The unCivil Naima – who also periodically frets about the current state of media – enjoys stalking Street Easy listings, producing theater pieces, and doodling on all the things (especially white sneakers).

Technologist-in-ResidenceMichael Young

Michael is a technologist-in-residence at Civil and will be leading Civil Labs. He has over 20 years of experience in building products and technology for media companies.

Before joining Civil, Michael was the CTO of Digg.com, helping to lead a rebuild of the social news service. Prior to that, he was the lead Creative Technologist at The New York Times R&D Lab. At the NYT R&D lab, Michael led a group charged with prototyping new ways of consuming media across mobile, web, tv and other connected devices (cars, etc). During his time there, he authored two books, won the Yahoo! BBC London Hack Day, received a patent for "Method and System for Providing Preference Based Content to a Location Aware Mobile Device" and was awarded a Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism.

Michael has a B.S. in Computer Science and Math from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. Outside of the office, he can be found hanging out with his family in Brooklyn, teaching (he is an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism), cooking and drinking too much coffee.

ConsenSys

The world’s largest blockchain venture studio as well as Civil’s deep technology partner and lone investor to date. CEO, Founder Joseph Lubin is also a co-founder of Ethereum and a board member at Civil.

Old Town Media

Former Politico executive editors Tom McGeveran, Josh Benson and Katherine Leher formed Old Town Media to work with news organization at the intersection of editorial strategy and sustainable business models. They lead much of our thinking on journalism ethics, newsroom recruitment and other special projects related to unleashing a platform for sustainable journalism. Tom McGeveran is also a board member at Civil.

Morris, Manning and Martin

Atlanta-based full-service law firm specializing in tech transactions, software licensing strategies, and blockchain/crypto compliance.

Klaris Law

New York-based boutique practice specializing in media liability, intellectual property and first amendment protections.