Blockchain in Fake News- Transforming News Industry

“Combating fake news and reaching to its origin”

In today’s century, when someone shows us the news, video or pictures of any event, how can we believe its authenticity? It seems that the public is losing their trust in media due to lack of reliable reference of facts. 

The beginning of the 21st century set the premise for today’s disruptive digital economy, where producing and exhibiting digital content has become convenient and easy. Digital content in the form of images, videos or blogs is being created and published at large scales today.

The free access to create and share information on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and other digital platforms has popped out a new problem of fake information, which created rumors around the world. And with advances in technologies like AI, digital animations and social engineering, the line between fake and authentic content is only going to blur even more.

No one who has time to check the authenticity of messages or videos forwarded on the WhatsApp or other social media platforms. That’s how people fall into the trap for the fake news. Therefore, it has become essential to reach out the authenticity of the information, i.e., where it has come from and who created it.

With traceable and transparent nature of the blockchain, it can be possible to verify the authenticity of the information or its sources and build trust in news displayed on the Internet. The implementation of the blockchain in news industry the content is produced and distributed over the internet in a fast, cheap and secure way.

Author’s Bio

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Akash Takyar

CEO LeewayHertz

Akash has built over 100+ digital platforms used by millions of consumers. Akash is a core member and ambassador of Hedera Hashgraph and Hyperledger. Akash has invented a reverse geocoding algorithm used by Uber and Twitter. Akash is a technical architect and has been a consultant to McKinsey, 3M, Simens and Hershey’s. Akash holds a masters degree in computer applications.

Before understanding how blockchain can solve the fake news problem, let’s first talk about fake news.

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What is fake news?

Information which has no fact behind it but presented factually accurate and consumed by millions through television, radio, websites or social media is defined as the fake news.

The hoaxes or false stories can destroy the reputation of any human or industries including politics, health, stock, sports and finance.

For example, in 2016, BuzzFeed News classified the most viral fake news on Facebook was “Obama had signed an executive order while banning the pledge of allegiance in schools nationwide.”

The content was intended to destroy the Obama’s position during the 2016 US elections.

The false stories are not just limited to politics, but can also affect other areas like health, vacation, and business.
It is not easy to recognize a fake news, since there are several types of content around, such as:

  1. Satire or Parody–When the fake stories are posted on the sites just for entertainment but have no potential to deceive people.
  2. False connection–  When news content is not relevant to its headlines, captions, or visuals.
  3. False context– When relevant content is shared in the wrong context.
  4. Imposter content– When the actual sources are mimic with fake or manipulated sources.
  5. Fabricated content– When news is created to either earn money or gain publicity.

As a Fake News is the biggest concern today, it can have an adverse impact on the following areas.

Here are some of the real-life cases:

  • One of the significant concerns of fake news is manipulation. The fabricated content can fool the society, especially during political events.
    In 2018, during the Jakarta gubernatorial election, more than 1,000 reports on politics and election were declared as fake.
    The event spreads ‘fake news’ about Anies Baswedan who was the opposition candidate, that his loss in elections would give rise to a Muslim Revolution.
  • Fake news can affect the nation as well as the international relations. In 2017, Qatar’s state news agency declared that its Twitter account had been hacked and hackers published hoax comments to criticize aspects of Arab Gulf and US foreign policy towards Iran.
    Due to the false comments, neighboring countries like Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt broke diplomatic ties with Qatar.
  • Fake scandals often look more convincing than the fact, leading to harassment, racism and reputation damage.
    Buzzfeed published the news claiming that the jewelry shop in the US replaced real diamonds with fake ones.
    The story makes the brand’s stock fall by 3.7% and reputation got damaged along with the business loss.

The blockchain-based solution has the potential to change the way information is produced and disseminated while playing the major role to tackle disinformation over the longer term. Let’s understand how the blockchain technology could combat the fake news.

How can Blockchain solve the problem of fake news?

Blockchain technology is declared to be the emerging technologies to revolutionize the way information is produced and disseminated.

Due to the traceability, transparency and decentralization nature of the blockchain, the problem of fake news can be handled effectively.

The blockchain-enabled platform can provide online readers with a reliable way of verifying the content and its authorship.

Published content on the platform would be recorded on the blockchain to protect users from any sort of false information.

User personas which could be involved in Blockchain-based Fake News Platform:

  1. News Agencies– who will provide news to the editors/publishers/journalists for publishing.
  2. Journalists– who will upload the images or video on the platform.
  3. Modifiers/Editors-who will write, modify and publish the news on the platform.
  4. Crowd Auditors– who will approve or mark news item as spam by scanning the QR barcode on it.

Front-end components:

  1. Native Mobile application for crowd auditors and journalists.
  2. Web portal for news agencies and modifiers/editors.

Backend Technology:

  1. Blockchain component
  2. Microservices Programmed using node.js
  3. IPFS (Interplanetary Filesystem): used to store data in the distributed database.

The blockchain-enabled platform can be used to verify any information regarding live news events, viral images and content moderation.

Read further to understand how different user personas could use the blockchain-based news application.

News agencies

Using blockchain connected applications, news agencies can create their profiles to upload necessary documents such as:

  1. Name
  2. News agency license
  3. Address proof
  4. Domain name
  5. Work permit
  6. Years of working certificates

The documents given by the news agencies would be saved in the IPFS, with the address hashed and stored on the Blockchain.

Once news agencies sign up to the platform, they can distribute the news amongst writers, bloggers and others and save it on the blockchain with the smart contracts.

When the editors/modifiers/publishers receive the content from agencies, they can decide whether to publish it or not.

Modifier’s/Editor’s Profile Creation:

Modifiers/editors/writers sign up to blockchain enabled platform with the necessary details like:

  1. Name
  2. Contact number
  3. Email Id
  4. Designation
  5. News industry license
  6. Work experiences and certifications

The documents provided by the modifiers/editors to register on the platform will be saved in IPFS with a hash address stored to the blockchain.

When the modifier/editor uploads their KYC documents, their background verification is done via third-party APIs like Trullio.

The profiles are diligently checked to ensure if they have worked with the journalism industry and are authorized to publish the news story.

Based on the details accumulated from the uploaded documents, smart contracts would trigger the rules to provide ratings to the modifiers/editors.

Rating would help crowd auditors to decide whether the news written by him/her is fake or not.

After signing up to the platform successfully, the modifiers/editors can write and save the content and its hash address to the Blockchain.

Since news content are moved on an immutable ledger, blockchain can make it impossible for anyone to alter the information.

For example, when Alex writes, modifies or saves any news content on the platform, smart contracts would trigger and store the content and its hash address to the blockchain.
The hash address can be the signature of the document which will define who has created it from where and when.

Journalist’s Profile Creation:

Journalists would also have to sign up to the platform with necessary details like name, email address, phone number, id proof, work license and so on.

Similarly, when the journalists uploads their KYC documents, third-party APIs like Trullio will do their background verification.

Smart Contracts would trigger to generate the journalist’s ratings based on the documents submitted by them.

After signing up to the platform, journalists can upload/publish images or videos and smart contracts would trigger to save its source and hash to the blockchain.

Whenever journalist edits or modifies any image or video, then the item and its hash would be saved to the blockchain. Changes made to the item can help people to identify whether the image/video is real, edited or reused.

Since the start, all the edition with the images or video would be visible to everyone connected on the Blockchain network.
As the images or videos saved on the Blockchain, it is impossible to edit or alter the data.

The blockchain-enabled application can generate traceability at the time of the creation of the content, image or video.

Crowd Auditor’s:

Crowd Auditors can be the community different from the news organization. They can have the ability to decide whether the published or viral news is fake or not by tracing its source.

Crowd Auditors can register to the platform with the necessary KYC documents and other essential information.

After background verification from the third party’s API, crowd auditors is onboard to the blockchain enabled application.

How can Crowd auditors trace the news source and validate it?

Every news item has the QR code that can help crowd auditors to find the complete source of that particular news item.

Source code helps to find the complete news details like when it was generated, edited, modified, written, published, etc.

So,  whether it is an image, video or content, scanning the QR code can help auditors to mark it as fake or spam.

Once the news gets verified, the smart contracts get triggered to save the verification status on the blockchain.
Let’s understand how crowd auditors can decide to mark the news as spam and receive rewards on the blockchain.

Crowd Auditors can randomly or periodically rate content and vote them as accurate or inaccurate.

Here are the factors by which crowd auditors can evaluate the content’s credibility:

Check the site– Well, it is not necessary that the popular site publishes the actual content only. So, the crowd auditors can investigate the site, its mission and published content to mark it as accurate or inaccurate.
Consider the source– Crowd Auditors can check the site’s domain to verify whether it is a legitimate news organization or not. Since some domains like “abcnews.com.co” may be created to look similar to the original, but they are not.
Check the author– Do a quick search on the Author. Author’s details have already been stored on the distributed ledger, which is visible to all crowd members of the network. Based on the details provided by Author can help crowd auditors to evaluate the creditworthiness and rate them through smart contracts.

Blockchain enabled news platform could have the following benefits:

    • Transparency in the news: As the blockchain can provide transparency, the world would be able to discover the news is fake or not.

The authenticity of the news will be based on specific criteria defined in the smart contracts, generating trust and transparency amongst the whole World.

  • Traceability of the news: Blockchain enabled applications can trace the authenticity of news from the start till the present and in future as well. It will prevent the readers to fall for the fake news.
  • Decentralized Approach: With the approach of decentralized news platform, the problem of fake news can be resolved.  Moreover, an absence of centralization to store the data ensures no single points of failure.SPOF(single point of failure) defines as the part of the computer and its failure would cause the entire system to fall.
  • Immutable Approach: News content, videos or images saved on the Blockchain is immutable as they cannot be altered, changed or deleted.

The blockchain is a robust technology that can give a subtle approach to overcome the challenges of fake news. Since news is an integral part of everyone’s life, the blockchain works as the solution by bringing traceability, transparency in every operation.

If you are looking out for the team of Blockchain Developers who can provide the better understanding of the blockchain in fake news, contact us and discuss your requirements.

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