Blockchain can stamp out fake news and rebuild trust in mass media

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The fact-checking agencies are responsible for verifying facts and allegations in the news that may be skewed in rewriting or for political purposes. The body of the message can consist of truthful information written in a neutral format peculiar to the messages, but a sentence can contain a false fact or assertion whose origin is unknown. In addition, the state itself has begun to produce false information, as was the case with the famous Twitter account of former US President Donald Trump.

The main strength of fake news is that it can spread quickly. While there has always been inaccurate information, the internet makes it worse every year. The fast pace of fake news exchanges can have a direct impact on public relations and have serious political and economic consequences, sometimes difficult to predict. Not to mention the fact that it has become difficult to track down the original source, and on what iteration, true news may have become false.

Why is it so difficult to fight false news?

Public literacy can be helpful in combating inaccurate information, as online news is often characterized by unverified facts and a lack of originality. Nowadays it is very easy to create a misleading message or article: you only need a digital platform for the first publication, then fake news is spread by the users themselves and their number increases exponentially.

Also, posting fake news often generates profits for the platform owners through embedded advertising and they are in no hurry to abandon this type of revenue generation. Another problem is misinterpretation of the news source. For example, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a city government is issuing a regulation on new restrictions, which, however, can be interpreted differently by the media for reasons of traffic, click-baiting and uniqueness. Any fact checker will advise you to “always see the source” in such a case. In reality, there is no guarantee that the user will do this as the mail flow is enormous and there is no time or habit to double-check everything.

Technology against false news

In addition to manually verifying facts, there are technologies to combat fake news, such as an automatic search for sources or an anti-plagiarism system. Sometimes fake news producers manage to disguise such systems when the original source is lost.

There are more projects and studies on the use of various machine learning techniques to identify inaccurate information. These projects are mostly based on a stylistic analysis of texts and a model that has been trained using text samples for fake news. However, there are also restrictions here, such as: B. collecting and tagging the database as this is a very time consuming process. In many publications that sin with false news, the style of messages with false information is no different from that of messages with truthful information.

The same goes for bloggers on social media platforms. However, there are examples of successful projects, such as when Twitter acquired a British artificial intelligence-based startup to combat the amount of fake news spread on its platform.

How can blockchain help?

First of all, because of the principle of how it works. A distributed ledger system not only includes the secure storage of data and the use of cryptographic encryption, but also the impossibility of arbitrary changes. Smart contracts store text, images / videos and their sources in a blockchain. Everything that goes into the registry contains source data, namely who posted a particular message – whether it was an article, photo, or video – and who is the source of a particular quote. This is relevant, for example, to news agencies or government press releases, the information of which may be distorted when distributed by other media.

Reliability and durability of the original messages are achieved through technological features such as cryptographic hashing, digital signatures and distributed consensus. In the proposed solution, the blockchain system for media consists of the following elements:

  • Smart contract for registration
  • Update the smart identity contract
  • Revocation of an intelligent identity contract
  • Evolvable reputation set.

Blockchain also solves another problem where media companies change news or publication dates retrospectively. The source can be tracked by recording a timestamp using a “blockchain-based approach to decentralized distributed storage to track the origin of messages”. This is particularly relevant when campaigning or tracking down the source of hate speech and defamation.

With the help of blockchain platforms, news sites can increase their transparency, and finding misinformation becomes much easier and, above all, faster. Not only does this help another end user review the information, it also provides clues about the metadata collected at each stage.

Before posting fake news, authors need to take into account that there is a way to find those responsible for creating and distributing them, as the distributed registration technology will contain all the information about the data from the first moment.

What else does media cooperation with blockchain offer?

The main state problem facing legislators today is the balance between human freedoms and the safeguarding of the public interest. Even in countries where the constitution forbids the passage of a law restricting freedom of expression, there are now attempts to regulate fake news, which is perceived ambiguously. At the same time, the damage that disinformation does to journalism, which undermines public confidence in reporting and in intelligence services and platforms in general, cannot be ignored.

If we imagine a news portal based on blockchain technology, it automatically means that it can take full advantage of it. It is not only about a new level of transparency and security through a distributed registration, but also about new ways of monetization. The ongoing battle in many countries between big players like Facebook and Google and governments trying to protect the rights of authors of texts, videos and other content is a clear indication that monetization is becoming an increasingly important issue.

For example, how can the writer of a news article get paid fairly when giants like Facebook and Google publish it freely on their resources and don’t pay the writer any compensation? On the other hand, if you put the news on a blockchain portal, a payment system can be set up for anyone who wants to read the articles. Payment can be made either via cashless payments from bank cards or via the platform token.

Ultimately, the combination of blockchain technology and the digital economy could be the basis for an independent, free press platform on which journalists and users have equal rights without intermediaries.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the sole rights of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Arsenii Tretiakov is Head of Public Relations at the Distributed Ledger Technologies Center at St. Petersburg State University. He researches computerized methods to detect fake news as a PhD student. Media studies student at the Carlos III University of Madrid.