With the growing ease of communication, fake news and false stories are now spreading quicker than ever. The sheer amount of content shared each day makes it a chore to weed out the authentic from the B.S. And, most people don’t have the time to do so. According to an MIT study on fake news on Twitter, users are 70% more likely to retweet falsehoods than true facts. Simply put, fake news spreads quicker and reaches a wider audience than the truth.
As an immutable store of data, blockchain technology has the potential to eradicate fake news for good. Utilizing digital identities and a verifiable reputation system, blockchain-based social media works to promote accurate information while burying falsehoods.
He Said, She Said
In the fight against fake news, blockchain relies on a phenomenon dubbed “the wisdom of the crowd.” The idea behind this phenomenon is that the collective opinion of a group of people is usually more accurate than that of a single expert. With numerous readers verifying the validity of news articles, false information will come to light with more accuracy than if a single source or panel of judges was doing the same job. This decentralized form of verification fits right in line with blockchain systems.
Some blockchain projects are already utilizing the wisdom of the crowd for various purposes. Augur has built a robust prediction market that taps into crowd wisdom to forecast future events. And, Cindicator uses a similar strategy to perform complex financial analysis.
You may be wondering, “In a system like this, what’s stopping me from simply verifying fake news to help spread misinformation?” This is where digital identities and reputation come into play. Each content platform can set this up and verify identities in different ways, but the underlying principle is the same. As a news consumer, you have a digital identity on the blockchain. You also have a reputation score associated with this identity. When you promote accurate information, your reputation increases. When sharing some inaccurate, the opposite is true.
You have a few options when an article comes across your feed:
- Share + Verify Article. If the majority of other people also verify the article that you promote through these actions, your reputation score increases. On the flip side, promoting an article that the crowd deems fake news lowers your score.
- Report Article. You can also report articles that you consider to contain falsehoods. If the majority of other readers agree with you, your reputation once again grows. Reporting verified articles hurts your reputation.
- Do Nothing. This won’t affect your reputation either way.
The higher your reputation, the more people your posts and shares reach. As your reputation increases so does your influence. Because reputation determines influence, malicious users will quickly ruin their reputation score, losing any influence they may have had.
As users verify or report an article, the reputation score of the article also changes. Articles with a good reputation gain exposure. Additionally, platforms can use your reputation score to give more (or less) weight to the verifications and shares that you give articles as well.
Because articles and their reputation are stored on the public, immutable ledger, you can directly see where an article that you’re interested in ranks on the truth scale. Over time, factual articles shared by legitimate users will rise to the top while articles driven by fake news won’t see the light of the day.
In addition to giving a greater reach, platforms can reward high-reputation users with other incentives. Whether it be monetarily, through a leaderboard, or with other types of perks, there are plenty of opportunities to encourage good behavior when creating and sharing content.
An internal rewards system can even be tokenized, automated, and ran using smart contracts alongside the digital identities and reputations already being used on the blockchain.
Blockchain to the Rescue
Although not yet available, there are a couple teams building out solutions to combat fake news.
Userfeeds is a protocol to provide relevant information to readers so they can allocate their attention more effectively. As a social media platform, you can integrate the Userfeeds protocol to ensure that your users don’t succumb to fake news. The protocol includes “Proof-of-Evaluation” message types to measure the importance of different messages on the protocol. Additionally, it uses reputation currencies to create a reputation system similar to the one mentioned earlier.
PUBLIQ is a nonprofit foundation also fighting the good fight through blockchain technology. The PUBLIQ platform is censorship-free but rewards authors based on their PUBLIQ score. This score is formed by the reputation that an author receives from readers’ views, shares, likes, and reports. Additionally, PUBLIQ rewards channels that share articles that have garnered quality traffic. Focusing on quality views prevents bots and other fake accounts from gaming the system to promote inaccurate stories.
No project has taken the forefront yet, and the one that does may not exist. With the recent mishaps of Facebook and Twitter, though, it’s clear that a solution needs to surface soon.
Goodbye Fake News, Hello Informed Readership
Even with blockchain technology working to bury fake news, it’s inevitable that some stories will slip through the cracks. It’s our responsibility as readers to be skeptical of what we come across and only share the articles we know to be factually true. With a little effort and skepticism in our reading, we can eradicate the manipulation of fake news once and for all.
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