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IGF 2018 LIGHTNING SESSION #14 How blockchain can impact the Internet

Despite the fact that almost ten years have passed since blockchain was introduced by bitcoin, the technology remains mysterious to many people particularly in understanding how it could impact the Internet and its future. In this session, we highlight some key attributes that make blockchain standout compared to any earlier database technology and how this may in fact disrupt traditional banking, real estate, media, and a host of other sectors. Instead of explaining how blockchain works under the hood, the focus of the session is to give an overview of the technology and its potential applications to inform the audience and trigger their curiousity.



- Walid Al-Saqaf,  Södertörn University-Stockholm/Academia/Europe
- Renata Aquino Ribeiro, Internet Society Blockchain Special Interest Group/Civil Society/Latin America and Caribbean


Session Time: 
Tuesday, 13 November, 2018 - 14:20 to 14:40
Emerging Technologies

Session Title: How blockchain can impact the Internet

Date: November 13th, 2018

Time: 14:20 – 14:40

Session Organizer: Walid Al-Saqaf , Södertörn University (Academia)

Chair/Moderator: N/A

Rapporteur/Notetaker: N/A

List of Speakers and their institutional affiliations:

- Walid Al-Saqaf,  Södertörn University-Stockholm (Academia, Europe)
- Renata Aquino Ribeiro, Internet Society Blockchain Special Interest Group (Civil Society, Latin America and Caribbean)

Three Key Issues to be raised

• There are misconceptions about blockchain and no clear link to how they could impact the Internet since most of the public knowledge appears to focus too narrowly on the cryptocurrency aspect connected to FinTech only

• Public blockchains have clear characteristics that make them stand out compared to traditional database systems. Those are decentralisation (being fully distrupted), immutability and transparency

• Theoretically, many areas that could benefit from any of those three characteristics would also find value in using blockchain in comparison to other centralized, hackable and black-box database structures.


Walid Al-Saqaf made a brief presentation describing the origins of the blockchain techology by highlighting the fact that it emerged from the creation of bitcoin and became more widely known for to its disruptive nature in allowing financial transactions across the Internet with ease and without the need for an intermediary such as a bank or an exchange/transfer service. The presentation referred to the three main characteristics of blockchains, namely their distributed nature, transparency and immutability, which in turn facilitated a number of use cases from financial transactions to real estate and property registration and from countering fake news and disinformation to tracking IoT-based supply chains.


Since this is a lightning talk session, there was only one point raised by a participant on the potential use of blockchain technology to counter disinformation and expose human rights violations in places of severe conflict. Walid answered by noting that Truepic is one application that uses the bitcoin blockchain to store hashes of pictures and videos in a way that proves provenance since the app also adds meta data such as the geolocation of the image/video, the type of mobile phone used and the software used to take the photo. 

Participant suggestions:

There were no suggestions from participants on the way forward but the speaker highlighted the ongoing work done by him and a co-author Malin Picha Edwardsson of Södertörn University ( in publishing a scientific paper on how blockchain is used to promote quality journalism and confront disinformation. He invited the attendees to contact him for potential collaboration. He also noted efforts by the Internet Society Blockchain Special Interest Group (  in connecting Internet governance issues to blockchain technology.

Estimate of the number of attendees: 15 persons

Estimate of the number of women: 7 persons

Discussion around gender equality and/or women’s empowerment: 

The session did not address the issue of gender equality or women's empowerment directly. But it highlighted the use case of blockchain in enabling journalism to fight disinformation and abuse of the Internet in propagating violent content, which may in turn limit some of the damage to women.


Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411