Blockchain technology was first employed as the backbone of the cryptocurrency world but has since been found to be useful in other areas as well.
While it was first tasked with tackling the issues woven into our financial systems, it is now expanding to battle a new adversary: fake news.
The New York Times has revealed that it’s currently engaged in developing a blockchain mechanism that can spot fake news and keep it out of their publications.
IBM Garage Will Assist With the Experiment
In a Medium post announcing the news, The New York Times said that for now, the project is only an experiment expected to run through the end of this year. The results of the News Provenance Project, as the experiment is being called, will be released regularly and the proof-of-concept will be shared in the fall.
The technology chosen for this project is called Hyperledger Fabric, technological support for which will be provided by IBM Garage. IBM Garage is one of IBM’s startup accelerators with a focus on client-focused innovation.
Hyperledger Fabric uses a permissioned blockchain, which is different from the blockchain system used by cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency blockchains are called public blockchains because anyone is allowed to access them. Anyone can join the network and make changes to the blockchain.
In contrast, a permissioned blockchain only allows actions to be performed by specific participants in the blockchain. This mechanism ensures that those making the changes have been identified, which is ideal for the News Provenance Project.
How the News Provenance Project Will Work
Ultimately, the objective of the project is to make sure fake news doesn’t get published.
News organizations worldwide—both print and online publications—are battling the menace of fake news. The collateral damage to these organizations is that a level of reader distrust sets in and they stand to lose their audience.
The News Provenance Project, using blockchain technology, aims to create trust in the files holding the news stories in digital form. This would mean recording when the news was generated and if there are images linked to the news, then how, where and when the images were captured.
Purveyors of fake news usually depend on an unrelated image or video in attempt to garner interest in a fake news story. The New York Times’ blockchain project will swiftly scan through its database and identify if the image or text has been used before. The actual process involves storing the metadata of each news story within the blockchain. Then, when a story is fed into the digital system, the blockchain will record it as an event along with the corresponding image.
The New York Times plans to run this as a proof-of-concept program while continuing to test its efficacy. An overall evaluation will be undertaken towards the end of the year to decide whether to continue or abandon the News Provenance Project. Periodic appraisals of the project will be made public throughout its duration.
If The New York Times succeeds with its blockchain-based project, it could prove to be a massive breakthrough for the news publishing industry. The accusations of fake news could be put to rest and the public could be assured that the news they’re consuming is accurate. Reporters and editors at The New York Times have called on their peers in the industry to join in this effort to identify and weed out fake news using blockchain technology.