About PubHubs
PubHubs PubHubs

PubHubs has started

PubHubs is the name for a new Dutch community network, based on public values. PubHubs stands for Public Hubs. It is open and transparent and protects the personal data of its participants. PubHubs is still in an experimental phase, in which first Hubs are being created by organisations that are close to the development team at Radboud University. The button below gives access to first illustrations. These examples are still under development and may change.

Try PubHubs

PubHubs aims to connect people, in different Hubs. Each Hub is a separate space online, that is managed by a separate organisation, such as a museum, sports club, school, hospital, municipality, library, neighborhood, or patient organisation. In each such hub, a relevant part of your identity plays a role. PubHubs focuses on reliable information, if necessary with digital signatures, and on trusted communication, if necessary with guarantees of the identity of all participants. In such a way you can get certainty about who you are talking to, if needed. But personal identities can also remain hidden, if that is more appropriate.


PubHubs’ starting point is a cooperation between two professors in the digital world: José van Dijck and Bart Jacobs. They are both winners of the prestigious Spinoza and Stevin awards in 2021. They spend part of the prize on the development of PubHubs. The organisation Public Spaces, a cooperation between cultural and broadcasting organisations in The Netherlands, is closely involved.

The PubHubs project started in november 2021 with the (open source) development of its own network based on Matrix. More information can be found in the frequently asked question (FAQ) section below. Do you wish to know even more? Download a more elaborate position paper. The technical design of PubHubs is described in a scientific publication. It includes how PubHubs handles the identities of its users.

Around PubHubs a community is being formed to collect requirements and develop a governance infrastructure. The focus of PubHubs is on parties with an active contribution to public values in the digital world. Do you, as individual or organisation, wish to contribute to PubHubs, or do you have questions. Feel free to contact us at the email address below.

FAQ

PubHubs is an abbreviation for ‘Public Hubs’, a safe and trusted online platform. PubHubs has a central login that gives access to separate online environments (Hubs) that are managed by separate organisations. These Hubs are responsible for the moderation of conversations and exchanges within their own Hub.

Most people communicate online via global social media platforms that have a revenue model in which user data is exchanged for free access to these platforms. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter) or TikTok focus on global connectivity between individuals. Their centrally controlled, global (algorithmic) moderation of content appears to be insufficient to provide a safe public environment. PubHubs, on the other hand, wished to offer a public space in which not global connectivity, but (institutional, local, professional, etc.) collectivity is central. PubHubs approaches users as citizens who wish to collaborate in a safe and trusted online environment for communication, deliberation and the exchange of content. PubHubs aims to give existing civil society organizations more digital sovereignty and autonomy. A school, soccer club or public library does not always need global reach to organise communication between their members. They wish an online environment moderated by themselves with various functionalities in which they can decide for themselves about data storage and access to content.

Intended users of PubHubs are public organizsations, such as patient associations, broadcasters and libraries, and their end users. Municipalities and cultural organisations (from the PublicSpaces coalition) are also interested. Such organisations and their end users are the target group of PubHubs. Each of those organisations wishes to use PubHubs for different reasons and tailor it for their own community. PubHubs is currently developing a number of overarching basic functionalities (such as local pseudonyms and access control for rooms) that safeguard public values and that are necessary for all Hubs.

  • Autonomy: affiliated organisations can decide for themselves about the storage and management of (and access to) their data and content. PubHubs does not have a central authority that owns, manages and stores data and content on one server, since this will fall under the management of the separate organisations running their own Hub.

  • Security and privacy: security is created through a central Yivi login, which gives access to Hubs and to (possible) secured Rooms. PubHubs also offers the possibility for flexible identity management: within each Hub, organisations can offer a self-moderated chat function via Rooms with verification of persons and authentication of content.

Identity management is a central feature of PubHubs. At the central login users of PubHubs disclose their email address and mobile phone number, so that they can be recognised the next time. These personal data are known only at the central level.

Within Hubs users are known only via a pseudonum, that is, via a random name that is automatically assigned. This pseudonym is different in each Hub, so that what users share in one Hub, for instance among patients of a shared disease, can not be connected to them in another Hub, for instance of a sportsclub. In every Hub the user can replace this pseudonym with a self-chosen name, for recognisability.

In addition, PubHubs offers so-called ‘proportional and attribute-based authentication’. Proportional means that the user discloses only the identity information that is essential to the context, no more and no less. Attribute-based means that each piece of information about a user’s identity can be entered separately. A few examples: if a public library reading group is only suitable for 8-12 year olds, the verified attribute ‘age’ (not date of birth) will suffice. Professional care providers may be recognisable within patient groups via their medical registration.

At PubHubs, communities (“Hubs”) are managed by a participating organisation with a duty of care, which is also responsible for underlying conversation spaces (“rooms”). Rooms are public or closed chat environments for communication and exchange. Human moderators (employees of the participating organisation or volunteers) are active in the Hubs and Rooms and keep an eye on the tone of the conversation and possibly also the theme.

The central login of PubHubs gives access to all the connected Hubs. To log in, users disclose their email address and phone number as an identity check for access. PubHubs works with the privacy-friendly Yivi app, for so-called proportional, attribute-based authentication tool. In the long term, it will become possible to login to PubHubs via other wallet apps, provided they are also open source, non-profit and privacy-friendly. Once registered, a user will receive a PubHubs ‘card’ in their Yivi app, for identification on subsequent logins. Information such as email addresses and telephone numbers is never provided to the participating Hubs or to other parties. The privacy of users is protected while their identity is verified.

The big difference is the raison d’être. PubHubs is not a global social network but an online environment for existing organisations promoting public values that are rooted in (physical or offline) society (limited to the Netherlands for now). A social network like Facebook can present itself as a place where connections take place between individuals, but in the end it is primarily a place to show advertisements to people. As a centralized platform, Facebook, for example, collects data from users to link those profiles to advertisements. PubHubs is a place where participating organisations and their audiences are truly central; they are responsible for moderation themselves and there are no commercial incentives nor software and algorithms designed for this goal. PubHubs is a non-profit, open source online environment that is developed in co-creation with the parties involved.

PubHubs is a co-creation project intended for Dutch organisations aimed at public values that would like to use an online environment that reflects their public values.

PubHubs is at the same time also a research project that aims to gain a better understanding of what is needed to build (technology development) and organise (governance and moderation) an alternative, online environment. This project started late 2021 and is still in the development phase. The team at Radboud University Nijmegen designs and builds the basic functionalities, such as for login and communication within rooms. Utrecht University is investigating possible governance models for PubHubs. Together with PublicSpaces-partners, they are now exploring through workshops what are the shared ‘must functionalities’ for participating organizations.

The management organisation behind PubHubs has yet to be established, as legal entity, but PubHubs aims to offer a non-commercial online environment in which no advertisements, products or data are traded. The development of PubHubs is currently being financed with resources from the Stevin Spinoza Prize and subsidies from the SIDN Fonds and from ZonMW. The costs for moderation will be for the participating organizations; costs for open source software development and maintenance will likely be covered by these PubHubs members (and their funds).

contact

Do you, or your organisation, wish to contribute to PubHubs or do you have any questions?

Feel free to contact us at contact@pubhubs.net

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