This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #PressForProgress which is encouraging women to push for gender parity especially in the workplace. The tech industry is renowned for its lack of representation and fewer opportunities for women. This is changing. Despite the many barriers to women seeking to get into the world of blockchain technology, there are some women making waves with projects that can empower women and utilise the technology to change the world.
Can blockchain technology revolutionise reporting of misconduct?
Following from the Harvey Weinstein scandals which erupted during the close of 2017, the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have been in the spotlight during this year’s film awards season which has focused much conversation on sexism and sexual misconduct in the workplace. ReputationCheck.io is a project founded by Juliet Annerino with the vision to create an anonymous digital ledger on the blockchain of reports from victims of sexual harassment and assault in order to create safer work environments.
To this end, the ledger aims to empower whistleblowers to speak out against their perpetrators without fearing ramifications as well as helping keep others safe in future. Using blockchain technology to verify reputations successfully in the entertainment industry could pave the way for the concept to be rolled out in other industries, too. We have seen rating systems using blockchain on platforms such as Steemit proving to be successful thus far which gives confidence for projects seeking to leverage reputation checking.
In a study conducted by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016, it was found that nearly half of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority goes unreported, while 75% of those who do report the misconduct face retaliation or blacklisting in their industry. This is an issue that does not exclusively impact women, with around 1 in 6 men going through similar experiences in the workplace. In view of such high prevalence, it is clear that safeguarding measures need to be implemented not only to protect individuals but also to make it clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
A more civilised workplace
Annerino is a founding member of the group Tech Ladies, as well as a member of the Government Blockchain Association, meaning she is no stranger to the blockchain space. ReputationCheck is her first project, based on a simple premise. Reports on ReputationCheck are verified through a cryptographic concept known as Zero-Knowledge Proof (ZKP). This system allows for the submission by the prover to be verified by the verifier while also keeping all information anonymous and confidential.
To protect against false claims being filed, users are required to register and become verified, with an annual fee also attached to membership. At this point, verification is only available to members of professional bodies in the TV and film industry – naturally this is the first industry in which this platform will be implemented given the inspiration behind the concept. At present, major entertainment companies including HBO, Amazon, Netflix and Warner Bros are registered with ReputationCheck and will hopefully lead the way when it comes to incorporating these checks into corporate best practice.
Reports are created anonymously through a proven method developed by Professor R. Edward Geiselman at UCLA to illicit a high level of detail, accuracy and truthfulness within the claims. By using smart contracts to analyse data within the report, incidences that break the law will be sent to the local law enforcement. Annerino has reportedly worked with the LA police force on this matter, and has affirmed that reports will be kept anonymous and followed up on by the law enforcers.
High hopes for ReputationCheck
It is hoped that successful adoption of ReputationCheck by Hollywood would increase the likelihood of adoption of the reporting platform by other industries. In turn, this will not only help to give victims the confidence to come forward after an incident, but ultimately it will keep people safe in the workplace and decrease incidence of sexual assault. This project appears truly promising and utilises blockchain in a completely novel way.