Blockchain vs Disinformation
Two major problems confront our society today: fake news and disinformation. Thanks to the digital revolution, these deceptions are easier than ever to spread. There are so many unreliable sources of information that it can be difficult to determine what published or viral news is real and what isn’t.
Disinformation, or content designed to deceive for political or financial advantage, is nothing new. However, throughout the past years, digital platforms have made it much easier to spread dangerous false information. During this time, false claims about everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to California wildfires, to presidential election results have gone viral with surprising speed and reach.
Deep fake technology, very convincing yet falsified audio, photo, and video content created by AI, are adding fuel to the fire. They have the potential to cost corporations tens of millions of dollars. However, there is also the no less substantial human impact of these types of deception on society as a whole.
Although this AI technology has exacerbated the problem, new technological advancements, such as blockchain and its distributed ledger technology, can help tackle disinformation.
In this article, we will address the following areas:
- What is disinformation and why is it a problem?
- The enormous potential of a blockchain-based approach
- How can blockchain-based solutions combat disinformation?
- Blockchain can help fight disinformation, but it’s not an all-in-one solution
What is Disinformation and Why is it a Problem?
Put simply, disinformation is false information that is spread on purpose to mislead people. It’s often presented as real news, but its goal isn’t to inform—instead, it’s to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of its intended audience. This could be accomplished via the spread of misleading or biased information, or by masking something as a fact when it’s really an opinion.
Disinformation can take any form: a photo, a video clip, an article, or a meme. And now that we’re all sharing our information publicly and consuming information at such a rapid rate, it’s easier than ever for false facts to travel like wildfire across the web.
So why is disinformation such an issue? Because it can be extremely difficult to spot—some people may not even realize they’re being manipulated until they’ve already shifted their opinions or made decisions based on that misinformation.
The Enormous Potential of a Public Blockchain Approach
Blockchain systems employ a decentralised network called a distributed ledger. These store data that is constantly checked and re-confirmed by all parties involved. This makes it nearly impossible to change data once it has been created.
Enabling cryptocurrency transfers, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital assets is one of the most well-known blockchain ledger applications. However, blockchain’s capacity to provide decentralised validation and a transparent chain of custody makes it potentially useful for tracking all kinds of content.
A crucial part of what makes fighting ‘deepfakes’ and other disinformation challenging is the lack of universally accepted standards. To properly deal with this issue, a set of best practices for detecting, labelling, tracking, and responding to manipulated media across digital platforms is required, but it does not exist yet.
Nonetheless, blockchain could provide great transparency and a much-needed mechanism to restore trust digitally.
How Can Blockchain Solutions Combat Disinformation?
There are three major ways that blockchain solutions can solve the issues faced by emerging types of digital disinformation.
Blockchain can fight against disinformation by tracking and verifying sources, as well as other vital information for online media.
News agencies and other organizations can use blockchain to create a registry of all photographs, articles, and other content they have published. This would allow anyone to verify the metadata, such as descriptions, locations, copyright, and others. The New York Times, for instance, is currently employing this technique for an experiment as part of their News Provenance Project. This initiative uses blockchain to monitor metadata like sources and revisions for news pictures, giving readers more context and transparency into when and how content was created.
Of course, individual applications may have specific requirements and sorts of relevant metadata. However, generally speaking, blockchain provides a way to validate where content originates and how it may have been changed on its digital trip to the final consumer.
Despite having discussed the disadvantages of deepfakes, they do have their benefits, like educational videos, films, and interactive artwork. As researchers and technologists develop this technology for these purposes, blockchain is an excellent option.
On one hand, they can track who accesses their algorithm. On the other, they can verify that the people depicted in training images have given their consent for their images to be used. This is especially critical for open source projects, which are more widely accessible, increasing the potential of misuse.
Verify Identities and Reputation
The publisher was traditionally the major source of a piece of content’s reputation. If you find an article from a credible news organization, like The Economist, you’re more likely to believe it’s true than if you find it on a website you’ve never heard of.
However, relying solely on an institutional-based reputation has some important drawbacks. Faith in the mainstream American media is at an all-time low, according to a recent study, with 69% of Americans saying their trust in the news media has dropped in the last decade.
Even credible sites are increasingly compelled to seek engagement above clarity in a digital media ecosystem dominated by click-based ad income. Readers’ ability to identify reputable journalistic outlets from interest-driven propaganda operations can be severely hampered when they acquire their news primarily from social media headlines.
This is where blockchain technology may help. Its technical resources can validate a content creator’s identity as well as track their reputation for accuracy, eliminating the need for a centralized, trusted institution.
One recent article, for example, proposed a system in which content creators and journalists might build a reputation score outside of the outlets for which they write by using a decentralised approach to source verification, edit history, and other aspects of their digital material. Furthermore, blockchain may be used to track material circulation, offering both consumers and publishers a better understanding of where misinformation comes from and how it spreads throughout the digital economy.
Of course, there are crucial concerns to address regarding who sets the standards, who contributes to the ratings, and who manages disagreements, just as there are with any reputation tracking system (as well as the mechanisms for doing so).
To meet both local and international regulatory standards, any system designed to track and verify personal information will need to incorporate privacy and security best practices. However, because it eliminates the need for a single, trusted entity to make these key decisions, the decentralised structure of a blockchain solution can certainly help to address many of these problems.
Provide incentives for high-quality content
Finally, one of the most difficult parts of disseminating factual information in today’s media ecosystem is that creators and distributors are heavily rewarded for generating clicks at all costs, and clicks are most frequently generated by sensationalized content.
While ad networks like Google have committed to do more to combat misinformation and deception, they are still attempting to hold themselves accountable for something that is profitable for them, and aren’t incentivized to stop the money flowing.
Smart contracts on the blockchain, on the other hand, provide a way to automate payment for material that has been verified to meet set quality requirements.
For example, a number of new startups have emerged in recent years, such as Nwzer and Pressland, that aim to support citizen and independent journalists by removing barriers to distribution and leveraging blockchain to verify the accuracy and integrity of news content.
Of course, the community of stakeholders that sets the standards for these systems will determine their reliability. A blockchain system, on the other hand, if well-designed, can break through today’s cluttered information ecosystem and encourage people to exclusively generate and share content that fulfils the community’s needs.
Using blockchain technology to verify information as genuine would be a step in the right direction for combating disinformation in our digital age.
Blockchain can help fight disinformation, but it’s not an all-in-one solution
Blockchain has evolved into a successful technology to fight fake news and disinformation. This decentralized approach provides a transparent record of any digital information on the network.
Distributed ledgers can be a powerful tool for preventing the spread of deceitful information on the internet, such as deep fakes, through any social media platform or news organizations that may defame others or cause irreparable harm to reputations and businesses.
To be completely honest, even the best blockchain technologies can’t guarantee that fake news will never happen. It’s certainly not a perfect solution. But with the right tools in place and enough public participation, blockchain technology can go a long way toward helping combat misinformation.
In summary, there’s strong evidence that blockchain technology has the potential to combat fake news and disinformation. Blockchain may not be an all-powerful cure-all, but it holds incredible promise as a tool to help us combat this important problem.