New York Times unveils blockchain platform to fight fake news

The New York Times (NYT) has unveiled new details regarding its bid to fight the spread of fake news through blockchain technology. Known as the News Provenance Project, the new platform will be built on the Hyperledger Fabric, a permissioned and open-source blockchain framework hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Fake news has become rampant in modern days, with a study by the Pew Research Center revealing that people are being increasingly drawn to fake sensational news. The News Provenance Project will seek to combat this by launching a platform for recording and sharing metadata about published media.

The first phase of the project is currently underway and will run throughout the year. In this phase, the NYT and its partner companies will turn their “technical and user research into a proof of concept, focused on photojournalism, to demonstrate how this system could work at scale.”

News organizations generally record the location and time when a video or photo is captured. They also record who took the photo or video and the steps taken during the editing and publishing process. While this metadata could prove a useful tool in the fight against fake news, the publishers lack a reliable mechanism for distributing it to systems that users rely on such as messaging apps and social media.

“The News Provenance Project aims to close this gap by establishing a set of signals that can travel with published media anywhere that material is displayed: on social media, in group chats, in search results and emails, and so on.”

The Times, which is the third most widely circulated newspaper in the U.S., called on all stakeholders in the media industry to join the initiative. It stated:

A successful outcome would eventually require the participation of a majority of the media ecosystem, both to ensure solutions work for all parties, and to implement the system that takes shape. To that end, we are seeking collaborators to lend expertise and help us hone the implementation.

The company also hailed the impact that blockchain technology has in the media industry. Sasha Koren, the project lead wrote in a blog post, “Its underlying structure as a ‘distributed ledger’ is useful for this project because it makes the records of each change traceable: files are not so much changed as built upon. Any updates to what is published are recorded in a sequential string (or “blocks” in a “chain”) with the string of those changes adding up to create a provenance.”

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