Efecto Cocuyo (EC), an independent Venezuelan news outlet founded in 2015, is launching a collection of NFTs to raise funds and denounce the digital censorship suffered in Venezuela.
NFT stands for "Non Fungible Token." Based on blockchain technology, it allows to create scarcity and traceability in digital elements, such as images, videos or gifs, which traditionally on the internet have no traceability.
Efecto Cocuyo's collection contains 489 images that represent the number of days the news outlet has been blocked in Venezuela.
"Faced with the digital censorship being implemented by the government of Nicolás Maduro, we decided to give new utility to this technology and use it to immortalize and make visible the censorship we are suffering as an independent news outlet. The NFTs contain the error image that Venezuelans get when they try to access Efecto Cocuyo’s website," Luz Mely Reyes, co-founder of the Venezuelan news outlet, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).
According to the news outlet, the team of the digital rights organization VE Sin Filtro verified the blocking of Efecto Cocuyo's website in the main Internet Service Providers (ISPs). These blockages began, systematically and frequently, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2022.
These restrictions are not the only ones. More than 35 news websites were already blocked in the 2021 regional elections in Venezuela and error messages are increasingly frequent for those trying to access websites with informative or activist content.
"Internet blocking is implemented by ISPs at the behest of the telecommunications regulator, in a process typically with no court order, no clear legal basis, no transparency and in violation of international human rights standards," the news outlet said in its press release launching the NFTs.
Media such as the New York Times, CNN, TIME magazine and GQ have successfully launched NFT collections for sale. However, this is the first time a news outlet in Latin America has ventured into experimenting with blockchain technology.
Efecto Cocuyo carries innovation in its veins. In 2015, they carried out the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever done by a Venezuelan digital native news outlet.
They are also the only Venezuelan digital news outlet that has a fact-checking unit dedicated to investigating and dismantling disinformation strategies, in collaboration with other Venezuelan organizations that specialize in disinformation issues.
They also have a training school on migration issues called Escuela Cocuyo, which has trained more than 1,000 journalists inside and outside the country. They have also designed specialized guides for coverage of migration, violence and humanitarian emergencies, among others.
"Innovation is essential for EC. Let's remember that we are, first of all, a news outlet founded in 2015 by women and with a gender approach, which at the time was very disruptive," Reyes said.
"In addition, in organizational development over the years, we have aligned several of our objectives with the goals of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Among them, gender equality, environmental protection, inclusion and diversity policies, which are reflected in the approach to the topics and lines of coverage we do. In general, we have a human rights approach," the journalist said.
NFTs are certified through blockchain technology, as are cryptocurrencies. But, NFTs are non-fungible goods, i.e., they cannot be compared, replaced or consumed. They are like a digital work of art.
There are those who consider NFTs a long-term investment and acquire them expecting them to appreciate in value. In the case of Efecto Cocuyo’s collection, NFTs are presented more as an innovative form of crowdfunding.
Each EC NFT is priced at 0.1 Ethereum, equivalent to US $184 dollars.
"NFTs are digital elements. In this case it is a collectible, not an asset seen as an investment. It is more of a donation and the return is to be able to support a news outlet like EC to continue fulfilling its mission. In this way, those who buy the piece support us and have in turn a piece of digital art that is a gift for donations made," Reyes said.
For the creation of this collection, Efecto Cocuyo had the support of Futuria, a company and innovation lab specialized in web 3.O and Blockchain technology.
Efecto Cocuyo's plans do not end here. "During this month and in the coming months we will be 'uncovering' different initiatives so that users, communities and anyone who believes in the importance of independent media in the construction of democracy can support us," Reyes said. "That will include a nontraditional fundraising campaign that, like many of our initiatives, will be innovative."