Can blockchain whip fake news?
Blockchain is used for a whole range of things. Someone uses it to build Internet 3.0. Others are trying to apply the technology in media - to fight against fake news.
With the development of the Internet, media have gained an effective tool for promoting their content and news. Nowadays media cover almost every major event, using various techniques to influence the reader.
Some of them use the power of innovation for the public benefit: they create infographics, databases and give people comprehensive, impartial and truthful information. Even here, however, there are intruders who manipulate public opinion with the help of fake news.
Fakes have already become somewhat usual and it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish them from real news. A good illustration of that may be the video with former US President Barack Obama, who called the then challenger for his post, Donald Trump, “deep shit”. As it turned out later, the “craftsmen” simply imposed lip movements and a speech on the original video with the American president.
In such a huge information flow, where everyone can become a journalist and start a blog of his own, it becomes an impossible task to distinguish the truth from a lie.
One of the oldest and most respected newspapers, The New York Times, decided to change the current situation. The
blockchain should help in doing that. The newspaper wants to start a fight with tracking fake photos, after all, they are the easiest to fake. Blockchain vs fake photos
Last week, the research and development department of The New York Times said that it would use the closed blockchain from Hyperledger Fabric to fight fake photos in the media.
According to the newspaper, users become indifferent to the news because of fakes. Large and small media lose readers because of that, and therefore they lose their profit as well. Testing of the system will be taking place from July till the end of 2019.
The newspaper, in particular, is going to store “contextual metadata” photos on the blockchain. The system will determine who, when, how and where made the content, and whether it was amended and also where it was published.
According to the developers, their goal is to create a “set” of signals that would travel with content, regardless of where it is published, including social networks, chat rooms, etc.
The New York Times is conducting only a pilot project. Its main goal, according to the newspaper, is to understand whether technology can help people better recognise fakes.
The media also responded to the question: “what it has to do with the blockchain”. According to The New York Times, the data on the blockchain is stored in a centralised way. As a result, none of the structures has complete control over it. And it means that no one can change them individually without the knowledge of the public.
In addition, all data are stored in a chain of consecutive blocks. And due to that fact, any changes in content can be easily traced.
The New York Times also invited other media to cooperate. So far, however, no one volunteered to help.
Fight against windmills
The very idea of the newspaper is admirable. In fact, journalists are trying to build a system that, at best, will be able to label the “fake” content on any material.
“Blockchain allows you to verify sources. If you verify the fake, however, it still does not mean much,” claims Alexey Pospehov, GR & PR director of MISSION
Moreover, nowadays real news and fakes are so strongly intertwined that even experts sometimes can not understand where the truth is, and where there is a lie.
“In general, the blockchain will not help with the spread of fake news, because in the post-truth era it is not clear what the truth and fake are. Postmodern has destroyed such things, ” explains the expert.
Nevertheless, the fact that traditional media are also beginning to look for an application to the blockchain is a positive signal. It is a pity that
cryptocurrency media, which are often accused of “dramatising” or outright lies, have not reached that point just yet. The problem may well lie in their “young age"
“As for crypto media, they do not exaggerate, it’s just the industry is young and new, so the breadth of views and value judgments is much broader than in traditional media. Moreover, they write about the latest technology, which caused a lot of hype. Probably, the appearance of electricity a hundred years ago caused the similar boom,” says Alexey Pospehov.
The New York Times is not the first media that has decided to integrate the blockchain into the life of editorial boards. At the end of August last year, the blockchain project The Civil Media and the Associated Press (AP) agreed for cooperation, which would imply the news and articles from the AP appear in the newsroom of The Civil. At the same time, other members of Civil will also be able to obtain a license for the AP content.
In return, AP received CVL
tokens and promised to continue exploring the possibilities of using the innovative technology.
“For the past twenty years, AP has been exploring new digital territory. Civil - opens up a completely new area with interesting technology and a commitment to good journalism. We want to help develop this area and demonstrate the value of new digital media, ” said AP’s Senior Vice President Jim Kennedy.
In general, Civil blockchain solutions allow confirming authorship and ownership of content. Apart from readers, both editors and journalists benefit from that. After all, users know to whom to make a complaint, if the content was fake or custom-made, and journalists get an effective tool in defending their rights, including the intellectual ones.
In addition, with Civil smart contracts, you can track content online, which helps editorial staff in suppression of the illegal reprinting of their materials.
Civil also has a special charter that regulates the quality of content and the behaviour of journalists.
Long before the AP, many other journalistic editions and organisations joined Civil. Among other there is the International Center for Journalism, the European Center for Journalism, the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the School of Journalism of the State of Missouri, and the School of Journalism of Annenberg’s University of Southern California.
It goes without saying that the idea of The New York Times deserves respect. After all, it shows how blockchain is a really versatile technology that can be useful in various areas.
On the other hand, the effectiveness of such a venture causes a lot of doubts. After all, not a single case has yet been implemented. Therefore, the final conclusions will be made only after some time. Only then it will become clear whether the distributed registries could bring a “revolution” into yet another industry.
Author: Aleksey Ryabukha