As a sign of the times in which we live, four of the ten most trusted news sources in the US are actually British publications. Additionally, research conducted by Stanford’s Graduate School of Education revealed that most high school students can’t filter fake news sources on Facebook, and most college students can’t detect bias in tweets from activist groups. The internet democratized the publishing industry, giving everyone the power to create content and make it available to the world. However, the sheer volume of content has created a new problem: an excess of information and misinformation. Fortunately, we live in an era where technology solutions have the potential to help us weed out the propaganda. Blockchain is one of the more promising technologies that can help combat the fake news epidemic that has harmed the media industry’s reputation.
To quickly review, blockchain is a global ledger that securely records all transactions and operates outside the control of a central authority. This applies to any exchange, regardless of the currency or intellectual property involved. Blockchain-based news delivery could have the ability to empower the public to verify and promote news, thus changing the way we digest news through search engines, social media and mainstream media feeds.
A number of startups are already exploring this approach to fighting fake news. Snip is a decentralized, user-generated news platform that posts short, succinct content while working to avoid the addition of any opinions or bloat. Readers can reward writers with SnipCoin or anonymously report articles as incomplete, offensive, or biased. Snip is also building a network of fact checkers who can earn rewards on the blockchain for vetting news. Additionally, Decentralized News Network (DNN) is a news platform that’s stored on the Ethereum blockchain and marketed as incorruptible. It publishes articles based on consensus amongst readers, not a central authority. These two examples prove that interactive portals with reputation features have the potential to foster a more honest community. While many well-funded media startups are experimenting with blockchain, no company has truly disrupted the media industry yet when it comes to policing for fake news. Until then, we must of course always consider the source when discerning fact from fiction.
This especially holds true for social media. In fact, sixty-seven percent of Americans get their news from social media. Social feeds’ algorithms operate according to what readers want to see, regardless of if that news is factual. Facebook has made recent attempts to address this issue by now prioritizing local news in user feeds, but it’s yet to be seen what impact this will have.
The fight against fake and misleading information looks as though it will continue for some time. Our current “Age of Disinformation” should be viewed as an opportunity to balance our brand communications with education as well as advocacy, and continue to think beyond just traditional news channels. As communications professionals, we must find inspiration through concepts like blockchain in order to disseminate honest, high-quality content that consistently builds upon reputation no matter the medium.