How can Starling, a Web3 blockchain technology, help prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin and his staff in Ukraine?


Placeholder when loading article actions

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in many ways has become one of the world’s first digital wars, with fighters on both sides fighting for social media advantage, Western players attempting to boost cryptocurrency for Ukraine and a Ukrainian minister trying to persuade Twitter. global companies will intervene digitally.

There is now a new limit. One group is seeking the technology behind cryptocurrency and immutable tokens, or NFTs, to bolster evidence of war crimes, which has proven not always easy to admit to international courts.

The project, backed by Stanford University and the University of Southern California and coming out of something called Starling Lab, uses decentralized technologies. To ensure that visual evidence collected and uploaded in Ukraine does not fall victim to evidence-gathering errors of past war crimes. With human rights experts and former government officials among its leaders, the project hopes to use blockchain technology and other tools to ensure that evidence is not lost, interrogated, or corrupted by those who want the alleged crimes of the Russian occupation force. coated.

“Technology gives us more tools to track down perpetrators than we’ve ever had,” said Jonathan Dotan, professor at the Stanford Institute of Business and author of the “Silicon Valley” broadcast program, co-founder of Starling. “Unfortunately, perpetrators have much better tools. That’s why we have to fight as best we can.”

Joining Dotan is John Jaeger, a former State Department employee who founded Hala, a private company funded by the US government. uses artificial intelligence to gather unencrypted intelligence in war zones; Graham Brookie, who leads the Atlantic Council’s tech team Digital Forensic Research Laboratory; and Stephen Smith, British holocaust expert and former executive director of USC’s Shoah Foundation, holographic testimony he is currently a manager at a company called story file.

Their hope is that some of the same technologies powering the cryptocurrency will make it harder for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aides to cloud prosecutions with misinformation on social media platforms, as they tried to do with footage of Ukraine’s Bucha massacre. appeared recently.

For many Americans, blockchain is incomprehensible; for others it is just a way of empowering a force. NFT bubble or a common crypto scam. But the prosecution of war crimes can certainly have a positive use.

Together, Dotan, Smith, Brookie, and Jaeger have spent the last five weeks in Ukraine and the United States building a team of engineers and legal professionals to make images and videos uploaded to Telegram, TikTok, and other platforms more war-proof. -criminal defences.

“The social media footage that exists now will not slow down, hinder or ultimately blame war criminals. They are very suspicious for manipulation,” Smith said. “If we’re going to do justice to the lives and stories of these people, we’re going to need a higher standard.”

The complex effort involves several points on a timeline, all using some form of decentralized technology.

First comes the recording – or “hash” – the process by which an image is saved online for the first time. To save an image, registrants use metadata, which is the image’s tag. Starling uses a variety of technologies on the blockchain (the public digital ledger where the metadata is kept) making it very difficult to change this data without triggering a digital alarm.

“The target is not a single fact book,” Dotan said. “Making it exist in as many places as possible so we can have a consensus of trust.”

Then there’s the protection – make sure the image or video doesn’t change along the way. This media cannot be stored on a blockchain that only records letters and numbers. Instead, images are stored with another decentralization method.

For decades, including most recently in the Web 2.0 era, the goal has been to deliver material to a single, highly secure physical or digital location where no one can touch it. This makes sense: If you want to protect your family diamond ring, put it in the best safe deposit box money can buy. But in the emerging Web3 era, the goal is to store images in as many places as possible, as far away as possible.

Starling uses Filecoin, a leading storage facility with a higher authentication threshold than even a cryptocurrency like bitcoin. Starling Lab has provided 2 petabytes of storage to ensure that any image can be stored in dozens or more of storage lockers to prevent anyone from corrupting it – 2 million gigabytes, enough to fill 8,000 laptops.

Dotan likens the two stages to a real estate transaction in the analog world. First comes the notarized signature of an agreement, confirming that the person signing that signature is who he says he is. Then comes the sending of the connectors of the contract to multiple parties, making it difficult for anyone to change a connector without knowing exactly what they are doing.

There are even NFTs at the end of this process; unique digital tokens will be given to researchers so that they and they alone can access this material.

“What we always think about is future-oriented,” Jaeger said. “Technology is very possible. But it’s easy to do wrong and easy to do inefficiently, so we must do our job right so that it doesn’t come back to hurt us later in a situation.”

The push comes with another attempt, The British-based ARWeave effort this also aims to collect data about open source networks, but this is a much less regulated approach that makes it available to anyone who wants to upload it.

These new technologies may be necessary due to the nature of warriors. The most successful war crimes prosecutions nuremberg and included piles of evidence The lawsuit against former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic 20 years ago happened because the alleged attackers kept verifiable meticulous records that could later be used against them. This is less likely to happen in Ukraine with Russia.

Activists can cite a long list of unsuccessful prosecutions by the International Criminal Court for lack of official material. In 2014, for example, prosecutors at The Hague tribunal withdrawn The charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta have come forward, prosecutors said, as the Kenyan government withheld the evidence.

It turns out that social media isn’t much better. Dotan noted that most of the evidence regarding crimes committed in the Syrian civil war is permanently lost as it is stored on the servers of social media companies such as Twitter and YouTube. The staffer would succumb to a challenge initiated by someone trying to cover it up.

Human Rights Watch said: September 2020 report A review of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube showed that exactly 11 percent of the videos and images the group cited in 4,739 abuse reports over the past 13 years have been removed by sites, essentially eliminating evidence.

“Social media platforms remove online content more frequently and more quickly, often in response to requests from governments, to prevent this content from being used to investigate people suspected of involvement in serious crimes, including war crimes.” said HRW. “They are currently not archiving this material in a way that investigators and researchers can access to help hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Still, the most powerful system for cataloging images cannot prevent false flags or fabricated images in the first place, causing human rights experts to hesitate on the effectiveness of even Starling’s measures.

“I don’t want to say it’s not important for that. It’s an additional layer of knowledge that can help,” said Sam Gregory, director of programs, strategy and innovation for the technology-focused human rights group. Witness. “But if you don’t get the full arc from the moment you shoot the video to the moment you save and share it, you still have a lot of questions. ‘Is this video staged?’ ‘Anything not recorded on camera?’ ‘Can we trust what was originally hashed?’”

Equally important, even the most sanctioned images must convince judges in the real world. Her famous hard obtaining a conviction primarily at the ICC; hidden technical processes may not move the needle much.

“I’m not sure this is going to be a game-changer,” said Alexa Koenig, executive director of the UC Berkeley School of Law. Human Rights Centeris recognized as one of the leading experts on technology and human rights. “It would be really valuable to investigate the edges of the chain of custody, which is one of the biggest problems,” he said, using the official term to know who has access to a piece of evidence. “The challenge will be on admissibility, convincing the judges that it is something they should allow or weigh heavily on.”

Starling principals say they are aware of the challenges.

“We are just entering this era, and it may take some time before we really settle in well as part of good legal science,” Jaeger said.

But the alternative, he said, is to maintain a track record of non-accountability, which is ludicrous in his eyes in this age of sharp technical means.

“Yes, acceptability for any kind of digital evidence will be difficult. But we have to make sure it is as strong as possible.

“Because otherwise,” he added, “when the time comes, we will have nothing to accept.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.