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  • 1.
    Al-saqaf, Walid
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Journalism.
    Picha Edwardsson, Malin
    Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Journalism.
    Could blockchain save journalism? : An explorative study of blockchain’s potential to make journalism a more sustainable business2019In: Blockchain and Web 3.0: Social, Economic, and Technological Challenges / [ed] Massimo Ragnedda & Giuseppe Destefanis, Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019, 1, p. 97-113Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Ever since the Bitcoin phenomenon gained momentum in recent years, much has been written about blockchain applications and prospects in the FinTech industry, business and healthcare. Yet, very little if any scholarly work has been done to study how the peer-to-peer, decentralized and highly disruptive blockchain technology may impact or be used by news media and journalists. This article is an effort to contribute to the body of scholarship on journalism as well as distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) by exploring blockchain’s potential applications and challenges when dealing with journalism's most fundamental pillars such as fact checking, data gathering and analysis.

    The study explores two case studies demonstrating distinct uses of permissionless blockchains. The first revolves around blockchains as a source of information that could be used by data journalists to extract valuable insights regarding payment transactions and network formation as illustrated by the investigative reporting done on the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack.

    The second case study is around the use of the technology as a basis for revolutionizing journalism as an industry by leveraging the technology’s core characteristics, namely decentralisation, immutability and transparency. The latter case study will look into two ongoing journalistic projects namely the Distributed News Network and Civil, which promise allowing the creation and management of content without centralized control or even a centralized newsroom in ways that could effectively limit the spread of fake news and propaganda.

    The paper analyses the objectives, methods and limitations of the case studies and uses interviews and content analysis of empirical data obtained from primary sources. By reflecting on Rogers’ theory of the diffusion of innovation, the study assesses the impact of blockchains in comparison to other earlier technologies such as the diffusion of the Internet.

    It is hoped that the conclusions drawn from this study could help inform journalists and media about the potential uses and limitations of blockchain technology in journalism as well as initiate a scholarly curiosity with a futuristic outlook to understanding the role of cutting edge and disruptive technologies on society.

  • 2.
    Sorensen, Lone
    et al.
    University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK.
    Ford, Heather
    University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
    Al-saqaf, Walid
    Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Journalism.
    Bosch, Tanja
    University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
    Dialogue of the Deaf: Listening on Twitter and Democratic Responsiveness during the 2015 South African State of the Nation Address2019In: Media, Communication and the Struggle for Democratic Change: Case Studies on Contested Transitions / [ed] Katrin Voltmer, Christian Christensen, Nicole Stremlau, Irene Neverla, Barbara Thomass, Nebojša Vladisavljević, Herman Wasserman, Cham: Springer Publishing Company, 2019, p. 229-254Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This chapter investigates the use of social media as a channel of communication between citizens and government. It draws on the concept of ‘listening’ in democratic communication (Couldry, N., Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism. Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2010; Dobson, A., Listening for Democracy: Recognition, Representation, Reconciliation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). In the run-up to the 2015 State of the Nation Address, the South African presidency conducted a listening exercise on Twitter, which failed on all counts. Combining quantitative and qualitative analyses of Twitter conversations, the chapter evaluates the quality of listening and identifies the reasons for the collapse of the conversation. The findings suggest that while poorly performed listening campaigns can result in spiralling frustration among citizens, social media platforms like Twitter can also provide opportunities for governments to listen in a manner that serves a more positive relationship with citizens.

  • 3.
    Al-saqaf, Walid
    Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Journalism.
    Project overview: Addressing disinformation by creating a blockchain-based fact check registry2019Conference paper (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper introduces a project to build a blockchain-based registry for fact checks. It describes why the project was initiated and briefly argues for the use of blockchain to store fact checks compared to traditional storage methods. The project uses the Fact Check Assistant web application that was developed to streamline fact checking processes for individual fact checkers whether they work independently or as part of an institution or project.

    The paper is a mere introduction with in-depth research expected to follow so as to assess the project and identify what worked and what didn’t after the implementation of the project.

    The project is essentially an experiment to see if blockchain technology can help make fact checking processes more reliable and effective.

  • 4.
    Al-saqaf, Walid
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Journalism.
    Christian, Christensen
    Stockholm University.
    Tweeting in Precarious Times: Comparing Twitter Use During the 2013 General Election in Kenya and the 2012 Presidential Election in Egypt2019In: Media, Communication and the Struggle for Democratic Change: Case Studies on Contested Transitions / [ed] Katrin Voltmer, Christian Christensen, Nicole Stremlau, Irene Neverla, Barbara Thomass, Nebojša Vladisavljević, Herman Wasserman, Cham: Springer Publishing Company, 2019, p. 133-157Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Despite the emergence of several studies on Twitter's network effect during election processes, very few took a comparative approach to examine the social media platform's use in emerging democracies with high levels of political parallelism. This study helps bridge this gap through a thorough Twitter network analysis regarding two different presidential elections: the 2012 presidential election in Egypt and the 2013 Kenyan presidential election. While the two case studies had intense activity levels, there were clear distinctions. In Egypt, the pan-Arab mainstream media helped drive much of the interaction affirming their dominant traditional gatekeeper role. Kenya's case however showed greater levels of citizenry participation, stronger networks, and less reliance on mainstream media, which show signs of 'disintermediation'.

  • 5.
    Al-saqaf, Walid
    et al.
    Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Journalism.
    Seidler, Nicolas
    Internet Society International, Geneva, Switzerland.
    Blockchain technology for social impact: opportunities and challenges ahead2017In: Journal of Cyber Policy, ISSN 2373-8871, Vol. 2, no 3, p. 338-354Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    While much has already been written about blockchain applications and prospects in the FinTech industry, little research has been done to explore blockchain technology’s user-centric paradigm in enabling various applications beyond banking. This article is an effort to contribute to that body of scholarship by exploring blockchain technology’s potential applications, and their limits, in areas that intersect with social impact, including human rights. This article explores whether blockchain technology and its core operational principles – such as decentralisation, transparency, equality and accountability – could play a role in limiting undue online surveillance, censorship and human rights abuses that are facilitated by the increasing reliance on a few entities that control access to information online. By doing so, this article aims at initiating a scholarly curiosity to understand what is possible and what is to be concerned about when it comes to the potential impact of blockchain technology on society.

  • 6. Al-saqaf, Walid
    Internet Censorship Circumvention Tools: Escaping the Control of the Syrian Regime2016In: Media and Communication, ISSN 2083-5701, E-ISSN 2183-2439, Vol. 4, no 1, p. 39-50Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Studies have shown that authoritarian regimes tend to censor the media to limit potential threats to the status quo. While such censorship practices were traditionally aimed at broadcast and print media, the emergence of the Internet and social media in particular, prompted some authoritarian regimes, such as the Assad regime in Syria, to try and exert a similar level of censorship on the Internet as well. During the Arab Spring, the Syrian regime blocked hundreds of websites that provided social networking, news, and other services. Taking Syria as a case study, this paper examines whether Internet censorship succeeded in preventing Internet users from reaching censored online content during 2010−2012. By analyzing the use of Alkasir, a censorship circumvention tool created by the author, the paper provides empirical evidence demonstrating that users were in fact able to bypass censorship and access blocked websites. The findings demonstrate that censorship circumvention tools constituted a threat to the information control systems of authoritarian regimes, highlighting the potential of such tools to promote online freedom of expression in countries where Internet censorship is prevalent.

  • 7.
    Al-Saqaf, Walid
    Stockholm University.
    The Internet is Weakening Authoritarian States’ Information Control: Syria as a case study2016In: Freedom of Expression and Media in Transition:: Studies and Reflections in the Digital Age / [ed] Ulla Carlsson, Gothenburg: Nordicom, 2016, p. 135-143Chapter in book (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Previous research has identified information control as one of the most common traits of authoritarian regimes. With the advent of the Internet, however, attempts the ability to maintain a total blackout of selected types of information, such as anti-regime messages, dissident videos, etc., has weakenedve weakened. This article uses Syria as a case study to illustrate that despite the country’s regime’s pervasive Internet censorship methods of blocking dozens of websites, access to those websites remained possible. This was due to the emergence of censorship circumvention tools, which the present author argues are a form of liberation technology.

  • 8. Al-Saqaf, Walid
    Breaking digital firewalls: Analyzing internet censorship and circumvention in the Arab world2014Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    This dissertation explores the role of Internet censorship and circumvention in the Arab world as well as Arabs’ views on the limits to free speech on the Internet.

    The project involves the creation of an Internet censorship circumvention tool named Alkasir that allows users to report and access certain types of censored websites. The study covers the Arab world at large with special focus on Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

    This work is of interdisciplinary nature and draws on the disciplines of media and communication studies and computer science. It uses a pioneering experimental approach by placing Alkasir in the hands of willing users who automatically feed a server with data about usage patterns without storing any of their personal information.

    In addition to the analysis of Alkasir usage data, Web surveys were used to learn about any technical and nontechnical Internet censorship practices that Arab users and content producers may have been exposed to. The study also aims at learning about users’ experiences with circumvention tools and how such tools could be improved.

    The study found that users have successfully reported and accessed hundreds of censored social networking, news, dissident, multimedia and other websites. The survey results show that while most Arab informants disapprove censoring online anti-government political content, the majority support the censoring of other types of content such as pornography, hate speech, and anti-religion material.

    Most informants indicated that circumvention tools should be free of charge, fast and reliable. An increase in awareness among survey respondents of the need for privacy and anonymity features in circumvention solutions was observed.

  • 9. Al-Saqaf, Walid
    Circumventing Internet Censorship in the Arab World2012In: Liberation technology: social media and the struggle for democracy / [ed] Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012, p. 124-138Chapter in book (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    A book chapter describing how censorship patterns emerged in the Arab world during and just before the Arab Spring with some highlights of the early research done around censorship circumvention.

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