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Web 3 is assisting in the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine

According to Jonathan Dotan, the founding director of The Starling Lab, blockchain technology can revive our faith in empirical truth in an era of misinformation. This is especially true during the present war in Ukraine.

Every day, millions of smartphone cameras have provided us with a glimpse into the horrors of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ordinary residents are submitting gruesome photographs and videos to social media and messaging apps in minutes, galvanizing calls for the perpetrators of alleged war crimes to be held accountable.

These recordings, no matter how strong and unequivocal they appear to be, are not guaranteed to be admissible in court.

The trip these digital bits take from the camera lens to their presentation in front of a court is complicated, time-consuming, and often dangerous. The tools for manipulating digital media are as simple to use as the equipment that capture them.

The legal system is not immune to the existential concerns affecting the internet, given the erosion of trust in digital media in our day of "fake news." Because of our justified skepticism of digital platforms, digital evidence is on weak foundation. We frequently lose faith in what we observe. Our skepticism has been weaponized by bad people. It's the nefarious conclusion to a decade-long cyberwar.

The need to re-establish digital trust is undeniable. The good news is that, with the arrival of mature Web 3 technologies, a potential answer is also becoming apparent.

We see the development of tools like blockchains and distributed ledgers as an opportunity to establish a new technological, normative, and legal understanding of digital integrity, far from the hype and conflicts that surround the crypto industry.

The use of Web 3 technology to document war crimes in Ukraine demonstrates how provenance and privacy may be preserved while establishing an unbreakable chain of custody.

Our team at the Starling Lab has developed a framework to securely capture, store, and verify digital content using these open-source tools and best practices to solve the technological and ethical problems of establishing trust in digital records coming out of Ukraine.

Our new workflows combine L1 and L2 protocols, NFTs, and secure hardware wallets to build an end-to-end, immutable Web 3 solution for preserving digital evidence. In essence, these aspects are the new building blocks of digital authenticity. They show how Web 3 empowers end-users to compose solutions across new secure digital protocols when used together.

While the underlying technology is sophisticated, the framework's goals are straightforward:

- Capture – At the point of capture, register and seal digital content and its metadata.
- Store – Use cryptography to govern material and keep it safe on decentralized networks.
- Verify – Keep track of expert attestations from content evaluation and auditing.

Our system has already been cryptographically authenticating and archiving thousands of open-source intelligence records from chat apps, social media, and websites, which capture war crimes and create immutable archives of fact-checker analysis.

We anticipate that by offering an interface to this next generation of technology, we will be able to assist courts in addressing problems to evidence admission in the midst of a ferocious cyberwar, as well as stay ahead of developing digital threats.

To be sure, there is still a lot of work to be done. The courts recognize that they require assistance. The process of responsibility in Ukraine necessitates a combination of quick action and patience, as justice will almost certainly be spread out over numerous venues and span decades.

Making such a long-term commitment to accountability necessitates not only facing but also anticipating many problems on the technical frontier. We believe that all stakeholders will rise to the occasion, accelerating their own roadmaps and assisting the courts in updating outdated protocols.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for cutting-edge technology and processes to be better understood and safely deployed as long-term accountability solutions in our digital age in Ukraine – and beyond.


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