War Against Fake News Gains a Tech Ally

"The first casualty when war comes is truth." Yet, Hiram W Johnson could never have guessed the impact of today's fake news.

The problem with fake news is its ability to create disinformation and misinformation at scale. Disinformation is also seen as more potent than misinformation. While the latter uses false information, the former's use of biased or misleading information can influence the narrative.

Fake news is becoming a massive headache because of social media. These platforms deliver customized content feeds based on users’ preferences and behaviors using machine learning (and later deep learning) algorithms.

In turn, they create the “filter bubble” effect that sees users viewing only what they or their group of followers share. Without immediate access to alternative news, it isolates them -- making them ideal targets for misinformation and disinformation.

Blockchain to the Rescue

Modex, in its latest report, noted that blockchain and electronic identification and trust services (eIDAS) could help.

Blockchain enables smart contracts, decentralized consensuses, and tamper-proof authentication in transactions. The same characteristics can improve transparency, reliability, and traceability of news. It can also be leveraged to preserve and verify the integrity of the news and other multimedia content being shared online.

Similarly, eIDAS requires everyone creating an account, posting content online, writing a review, or buying an ad to identify themselves electronically. This can take the form of electronic signatures or video identification that can securely associate the signer with the online account or the information shared using a secure private key. This can eliminate fake accounts and bots while making people accountable for the information they share.

Media Embraces blockchain, eIDAS

Modex noted that the big names in publishing are already studying the uses of blockchain and eIDAS to combat fake news.

For example, the New York Times is using Hyberledger Fabric permission blockchain to fight misinformation. Currently, in its first phase, News Provenance Project aims to create a photojournalism-focused proof-of-concept that demonstrates how such a blockchain-based system could work to scale.

Forbes has joined forces with Civil, a journalism blockchain network, to become the first major media company to experiment with publishing stories to the blockchain. Civil is already used for verifying photos by Associated Press (AP).

Once plugged in, Forbes journalists will be able to upload their metadata to the Civil network, while simultaneously publishing to their website. Initially, only cryptocurrency-related content will be uploaded, and if the experiment works well, other topics will follow.

As a decentralized ledger technology (DLT), blockchain has the potential to bring transparency and trust to our new post-truth world. While it was created as an alternative answer to financial freedom and empowering, it may well save human thought.