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NYT’s News Provenance Project

By July 24, 2019 No Comments

We all know that future would be hard to imagine without the blockchain empowering various industries. New York Times reportedly decided to participate in the race and launched the NYT’s News Provenance Project. It is only understandable that one of the most reputable media in the world would invest in protecting the truth and fighting fake news.

Application of News Provenance Project in the Media

In case a news consumer is not willing to investigate the details of the news he or she read, the news becomes the truth. Not everyone is ready to dig deeper and research whether everything stated in an article is true. Therefore, what we have in our hands is the situation where the power has been given to the media outlet. Media creates reality and imposes trends and truths. Since more and more fake news appear, the need to introduce blockchain is clearly visible.

What constitutes fake news is the right question. It does not necessarily have to be a completely untrue story. It is enough to distort a certain piece of information and the news becomes fake. The information that people usually temper with can be in either text, visual or audio format. This is where blockchain can help out.

Technology of blockchain proved to be efficient in tracking the provenance of each product. Therefore, a piece of information is no exception. We have learned that details that we put on blockchain are immutable. Consequently, once we put an original information on blockchain, all possible alterations are visible and accessible. This is what the New York Times aims for, obviously. For those aiming for responsible journalism, blockchain would be a solution.

How Far the News Provenance Project Has Reached?

Blockchain offers variations to managing access, determining consensus, etc. New York Times reportedly plans to use Hyperledger Fabric, a private, permissioned, open-source framework. Their partners in this endeavor are IBM Garage, a company that has previous experience in this field.

At the moment, they claim to be in the starting phase of their work. Namely, the first step is to research the market. This means exploring the user-experience in the first place. The next step is to research how Internet publishes metadata about video and audio material.  In order to finish the research, they would also need to create “photojournalism-focused proof-of-concept”. This should provide input in what way and to what extent such a blockchain-based project could work to scale.

 Why Do We Need the News Provenance Project?

The answer to this question is quite simple. The Internet is the place where you can find immense number of various information. Nevertheless, there are situations when we need to be certain that the information we found is a reliable one. That is why we need blockchain in the media, or in this particular case – the News Provenance Project.

Blockchain would serve as a type of validator. Once the information publishes on the Internet, and gets shared many times through different platforms, networks and so on, it eventually loses its original context and could be interpreted in the wrong way. Imagine watching the image without knowing that it had previously been edited, selectively cropped, re-touched, photoshopped and so on. Alternatively, videos are especially prone to tempering. We have already reflected on the subject of deepfake. All this leads to deceiving readers and viewers.

The Provenance Project should secure the delivery of the authentic information to the audience wherever that info appears – either on social media, web sites, emails – just to name a few. This should be achieved through sending “signals” along with the information, in case that information has been tempered with. The so-called “signals” would reflect the metadata on when and where photos and videos were captured, what exactly has been edited, who dealt with the material, etc.

Do you think blockchain would be able to confront fake news?

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