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Lessons From Brexit: How To Protect EU Citizens From Fake News

Our latest report reviews how fake news surrounded the 2016 EU membership referendum and how blockchain can contribute to solutions.

Nick

Dijkstra

May 19, 2020

Download our latest report, Lessons From Brexit: How To Protect European Union Citizens From Fake News to read our full review of how fake news surrounded the 2016 referendum, and how blockchain technology can contribute to journalism and social media.

Two of the key characteristics of blockchain technology are trust, and immutability. Although the technology comes with a variety of features — a list that is still being expanded as developers and mathematicians explore the limits of engineering and their imagination — it is these two that are both at the very core of the technology and provide so much potential.

After the initial shock of the 2016 referendum and the consecutive US presidential elections, Europeans woke up to the reality of a post-truth world. Social Media has grown in significance and can now amplify the voice of an individual to a level never seen before in human history. Now, we can argue that the right to practise free speech is at the foundation of our democracies, but how do we react when we see it being used to spread misinformation?

According to one study that focussed on August of 2016, 20 posts containing fake news generated over 8.7 million shares and likely reached a multitude of impressions. Whether it is an act of foreign interference, or simply a result of the polarisation of our political landscape; the result is a loss of trust in the media, our institutions, and eventually our democratic process.

At the basis of fake news we deal with factual information being completely or partially doctored, or taken out of context in such a way to create a strawman or other logical fallacy.

If fake news is able to continue to flourish, this not only affects our political due processes, but could have dire consequences on global health and science. So how could blockchain play a role in all of this?

1. New Business Models

With journalism under pressure to chase clicks for advertising dollars and news outlet owners with personal agendas, going back to a reader based revenue model can protect journalistic objectivity. Brave browser is one example of a current day solution for this.

2. Immutable Database

One of the faces of fake news is (doctored) content in a different context. DLT could help by storing the original information, and all new versions. This adds transparency to the process and allows people to self-verify. The New York Times is one of the media organisations currently testing out a blockchain solution to do this.

3. Detection and Reputation

With the underlying infrastructure for transparency at the news outlet, people or machines can verify the authenticity of content. Versioning, verification status, and reputation (a performance score) can be stored. BCG Digital Ventures is developing a system based on machine learning and blockchain that can do this.

We understand that software will not save the world, and don’t expect blockchain to eradicate fake news entirely. But we recognise that this technology could help solve some of the issues, by utilising two of its core strengths: immutability and trust.

One of the founders of dGen and with a rich background in tech, Nick is a former Product Manager and Director of Customer Success. He shipped software to a user base over 15% of the US population and has organised 200+ events in Berlin. At hype.partners he is currently helping top-tier blockchain firms strategise their market approach and is one of the founding partners of Beyond.