Can blockchain technology solve the problem of deep fakes and fake news? The blockchain and Web 3.0 worlds are certainly fertile ground for this type of efforts. We have gone from solving the problem through the traceability of data to hypothesize a new system of incentives aimed at targeting fake or merely sensationalistic articles.
According to a recent report by Gartner, by 2023 up to 30% of the world’s news and video content will be authenticated as real by blockchain ledgers.
This will serve to counteract those who are making a living out of deep fakes, according to Avivah Litan, Gartner’s Vice President of Research and co-author of “Predicts 2020: Blockchain Technology”.
The manipulation of texts, photos and videos for political purposes at times of elections – for example the recent case of Indonesia – has led to increased governmental instability in several countries around the world.
The problem is strongly encouraged by the massive spread of social media.
Articles and other content based on false information often attract more viewers than the real news, an advantage for unscrupulous advertisers, but a problem for the audience to which they are directed.
The first 20 articles with fake news about the 2016 US presidential election received more coverage on Facebook than the first 20 official articles written by major media outlets.
Websites that spread fake news using bot-controlled accounts are usually managed anonymously, which makes it difficult to prosecute those who promote them.
“AI models that support text writing and video production can be used to rapidly disseminate customized and highly believable fake content that serves as the new breed of cyber weapons. Tracking assets and proving provenance are two key successful use cases for permissioned blockchain and can be readily applied to tracking the provenance of news content,” Litan noted in the study.
Attempts to combat fake news
The world of information has decided to combat disinformation and content falsification.
The major newspapers have found original strategies to tackle the problem.
- The Wall Street Journal, for example, has created a working group that will guide journalists in identifying fake news.
- Google reorganizes the indexing of pages according to the relevance of the facts contained within them and not only according to the strength of the website that promotes them. However, it seems that the algorithm can not yet solve the underlying problem: difficulties and little incentive to address the problem have not allowed the American giant to find a definitive solution.
- Facebook has put more effort into accepting the challenge, specific algorithms have been organized to recognize the reliability by taking advantage of readers’ reports. However, the results have been poor here as well.
Is there really interest on the part of these large groups to tackle the problem or perhaps it will not be them who will deal with it in the future?
The blockchain against deep fakes
Among the various emerging technologies, blockchain has been identified as the one that will revolutionize the way information is produced and disseminated.
Thanks to traceability, transparency and the decentralized nature of the blockchain, the problem of fake news can be handled in a realistic way.
Tracing the origin of the first data entry from which viral information was generated could be of great help.
There are many startups and large companies trying to solve the problem of fake news through blockchain.
- Userfeeds: a Polish startup, had initiated the creation of a ranking system that verified the reliability of the content on the Ethereum platform. However, one of the founders announced the termination of the project due to sub-optimal management of resources.
- Orange, the largest French telecommunications company, signed a new collaboration with the startup Block Expert that created the safe.press solution to fight fake news using blockchain technology.
- The origin of the company’s press releases is certified. The problem remains that news is often distributed through press agencies where the sources are distorted.
- Recently, The New York Times released more details about its innovative The News Provenance Project. The project will be first applied to photojournalism by certifying authorship.
- Photos are easily alterable and after careful analysis, the solution would be the implementation of a proof of concept through Blockchain. The New York Times has in fact stated that it has already started to develop its PoC in collaboration with IBM, using HyperLedger Fabric.
Incentives to fight deep fakes
According to Harvard Business Report, a real solution must solve the structural challenges of the media and change the incentive system.
Previously proposed in an old article on Hackernoon, a solution could use the prediction market structures provided by Augur or Gnosis.
This could take advantage of the incentive system to produce news voted as reliable by the masses after publication.
Smart contracts and platforms capable of programming economic incentives are ready-to-use for the paradigm shift.
The fact remains that the system is still complex and perhaps momentarily inapplicable to a large number of users due to frictions and difficulties of use.
But as it is happening for DeFi, the complexity in the use is gradually becoming less sophisticated.
The brains of the new generation of developers will have to focus on incentive policies to fight fake news.
Dealing with blockchain platforms where micropayments are linked to a decentralized and immutable ledger, Web 3.0 must not reward notoriety but the quality and reliability of a piece of news through innovative forms of incentives.
There is certainly a technology available that can help in defending the truthfulness of sources, but in order to achieve a concrete change, it is necessary that news agencies and individuals themselves actually want it. This requires more ethical journalism and information.