With so much content on different media channels and especially social media, it can be difficult to know what is true and what is 'fake'. Can blockchain technology help to separate truth from fiction?
Quick Links1. Blockchain in Action
2. Crowd Verification
"Fake news" was not a commonly used term four years ago, but it is now a hot-button issue. Generally, such news thrive on using sensationalist, dishonest or outright fabricated headlines to create business for online publishers and their readership.
Disinformation dates back in history, long before modern journalism implemented a set of rules for integrity.
One example of fake news can be found in ancient Rome, which resulted in the collapse of the Roman republic. It started when the Octavian (Later Emperor Augustus) took hold of a document claimed to be the official will of the deceased emperor, containing defamatory claims that led the Romans against Mark , the second most powerful man in the empire, via Cleopatra. Civil unrest followed, which subsequently led to the downfall of the Roman republic.
The rise of technology and the internet has helped the spread of inaccurate information on an unprecedented level. It has enabled manipulation, fabrication and publication of news with little to no verification, fraying editorial standards.
Social media channels have contributed in the distribution of fake news. Facebook received a lot of flak due to its unwitting role in the 2016 USA Presidential Elections. With the introduction of reporting and flagging tools, Google and Facebook have announced new measures to address fraudulent news.
But besides reporting and flagging tools, blockchain distributed systems also offers various ways to tackle information inaccuracy and tampering. Its immutability and cryptocurrency features can be adopted to develop new ways in identifying fraudulent actors and nurture an environment where people are incentivized to express their views in a credible way.
Blockchain in Action
In April, 2019, telecommunications giant Orange was the first organisation to join Safe.press, a platform for mutual authentication of online news based on blockchain technology. Safe.press enables journalists and users to check the authenticity of all news online, including whether a press release came from a legitimate source.
Another example would be using blockchain technology with a Satellite Identity Verification Model. This simply means leveraging on traditional identity verification from the likes of official bodies (i.e. regulators). Once these official bodies verifies the identity of a content creator, his or her identity is placed on the blockchain as a smart contract. Once in place it is immutable and will forever be on record. This allows for third parties to use these contracts as proof of identity and as reference to reliable content.
By using cryptocurrencies, content creators are rewarded while also allowing social platforms and/or publishers to keep track of both the credible and dishonest content creators. This results in embedding a level of influence in the content creation and curation process. Similarly, this logic equally applies to platforms that support multiple cryptocurrencies.
PUBLIQ, a non-profit foundation, is using the above concept to rebuild trust in Media. It aims to create a safe and impartial ecosystem for content creators and audiences. Its tokenomics also helps ensure that creators are incentivized to build a credible reputation while expressing their views.
This process accesses the collective knowledge of the ‘crowd’, or the masses, to ascertain the credibility of a certain individual or news item. Combining blockchain technology with data analytics, individual data points accumulate to give an accurate and immutable verification.
Given it is essentially the aggregation and analysis of data to provide a scored prediction, the same process of verification could be extended to things such as scoring publication or journalist bias. RedPen, a blockchain news aggregator, uses blockchain technology to The users can view the journalist's identity and analyse whether the information shared is accurate or not based on the reputation of the journalist or the agency.
Machine learning could potentially make this process even more streamlined, as data points are analysed and patterns determined automatically, without human intervention. However, crowd verification is still nascent, and many more checks and safeguards would be required to create something that is truly reliable.
While news verification technology continues to develop, a decentralized blockchain is a good starting point as a trustworthy mediator in helping to identify fraudulent actors, combat fake news as well as facilitate an environment that enables people to express their views with credible sources. If anything, it’ll also give governments one less reason for censorship.
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