LONDON, UK - Media
22 August 2019 - When Satoshi Nakamoto solved the Byzantine General's problem in 2008 by
inventing the Proof of Work consensus mechanism, not only did the world come to
know what is today collectively known as Bitcoin, it received something which
triggered a profound and irreversible chain of events. Few of us knew and even
fewer dared to imagine that the solution to a mathematical problem would be the
key to decipher a myriad of social, economic, and political issues. This is the
essence of blockchain.
But first, let's provide some very basic definitions for those not
versed in computer programming. After all, if blockchain is to change the world
it is necessary for industry leaders to speak to the people, and not just each
Blockchain is basically a record of transactions and this record is
spread across several computers linked in a peer-to-peer network. This means it
is decentralized, as there is no central authority; transparent, as everyone
has access to the information, and immutable, as the record cannot be
retrospectively changed. The first real use of blockchain was Bitcoin, the
first functioning virtual currency. This was all made possible by solving the
Byzantine General's problem, which was how you can verify the person you send a
message to is indeed that person without a central actor acting as a
go-between. This is of course oversimplifying matters, but it gives the reader
the general idea.
Can blockchain resolve all the
problems of the world? Obviously not, but it is an important step towards
reaching that ultimate goal. One case that perfectly illustrates the conundrum
of the Byzantine General's problem would be the fake news phenomenon, which has
yet to meet an adequate response from those who fight against it. This is where
the magic of blockchain comes into play.
Over the past few years, fake news
has become a global issue that raises challenges for both democracy and wider
society. While technology and various social media channels are an important
tool for spreading disinformation, technology -- and more precisely blockchain --
can help us fight it. As technology has rapidly evolved over the past few
decades, often faster than we might have imagined, the ways in which people
communicate have also changed drastically. People must be aware of the risks of
disinformation and fake news and must learn how to protect themselves by
differentiating between what is and is not trustworthy.
There is a difference between
disinformation and misinformation. Misinformation is "false information that is
spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead," and
disinformation is "deliberately misleading or biased information,
manipulated narrative or facts, [and] propaganda."
The real threat of disinformation
The term fake news came into focus
in 2016, when the U.S. Presidential elections took place. Since then, the
spread of disinformation by politicians, foreign powers, and entrepreneurs has
become a hot topic for discussion, triggering reactions and commentary from all
sides. Fighting disinformation is not easy as it is easy set-up an online
presence, mask identities and locations, and broadcast information and ads to
disseminate fake news. The threats posed by fake news are real and have serious
consequences for democracy and liberty since fake news can be used to influence
people for political purposes and to fulfill private agendas which are rarely
in tune with society's goals. Hoaxes spread through fake news contain
sensational, eye-catching, and fabricated content that is intentionally created
to mislead, harm, and accomplish certain political or financial objectives.
The digitization of human life has
led to the greater ease of disseminating news through social media channels and
apps, the availability of big data that allows the customization of news feeds
and the creation of polarized so-called "filter-bubbles," and rapid progress
made by generative Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) algorithms in
creating realistic-looking yet fake digital content. It is obvious that there
is a real need to combat the steady rise of fake news and disinformation.
Blockchain has the power to do that.
Blockchain and eIDAS to the rescue
Based on the experience of the
FinTech and blockchain industries, blockchain-based technology can allow users
and information suppliers to publish information in exchange for a tamper-proof
record of identity to be stored on the blockchain. Thanks to its characteristics,
blockchain can improve the transparency, reliability, and traceability of news.
Furthermore, the data used for identification would be securely held by an
independent third party, which thwarts abuse and unauthorized
access. Blockchain can be leveraged to preserve and verify the integrity
of the news and other multimedia content being shared online. As a
Decentralized Ledger Technology (DLT), blockchain has the potential to bring
transparency and trust to our new post-truth world by enabling smart contracts,
decentralized consensuses, and tamper-proof authentication. DLT is basically a record, i.e.
ledger, of transactions spread out across several computers in a peer-to-peer
network, making it decentralized.
Electronic Identification and Trust
Services (eIDAS) could also be used to fight fake news and disinformation.
Everyone creating an account, posting content online, writing a review, or
buying an ad would be required to identify themselves electronically in order
to demonstrate that they are indeed who they claim to be. This can take the
form of electronic signatures or video identification that are able to securely
associate the signer with the online account or the information shared using a
secure private key. This would end many fake accounts and bots, while also
increasing accountability for people who share information.
In the middle of the problem
It is not just industry experts
who think that blockchain can make a difference when it comes to fighting fake
news. Big names from the publishing industry are turning to blockchain with the
aim of unlocking and using its full potential. The New York Times is using the
Hyperledger Fabric permissioned blockchain to guarantee the provenance of
Hyperledger Fabric, among other uses, acts as a foundation for
developing applications or solutions. At Modex, we are also using Hyperledger
Fabric for our Blockchain Database solutions (BCDB). BCDB is our most important
product, and basically allows us to apply blockchain solutions to already
existing databases, making it easier for our customers to reap the benefits of
blockchain with minimal disruption to their already existing structures.
The New York Times' News
Provenance Project will use blockchain technology to fight misinformation in
the media. Currently in its first phase, it aims to create a photojournalism-focused
proof-of-concept that demonstrates how such a blockchain-based system could
work to scale. The News Provenance Project will also rely on blockchain
technology to record metadata about video and audio recordings published by
Another great example is Forbes.
The magazine has joined forces with Civil, a journalism blockchain network, to
become the first major media company to experiment with publishing stories to
the blockchain. Civil previously entered into a photo partnership with the
Associated Press (AP) using its blockchain technology for photos, but Forbes is
the first media company to strike this type of partnership regarding actual
stories. The broader goal will be to migrate all of Forbes' published content
over to the blockchain in the future, using Civil's proprietary content
management system, 'Bertie'. Once plugged in, Forbes journalists are able
to upload their metadata to the Civil network, while simultaneously publishing
to their own website. Initially, only cryptocurrency-related content will be
uploaded and if the experiment works well, other topics will follow.
Blockchain is no longer simply
about crypto culture or a closed club for computer programming enthusiasts. It
is a tool that offers trust in a way that was never available before.
Blockchain is about being bottom-up, decentralized, transparent, and honest.
Blockchain is about progress.
About Modex - for background information
Modex is a company that promotes the adoption of blockchain technology
as a key pillar of future progress. Modex offers fully integrated services
designed to solve the last mile adoption problem of the blockchain and aims to
make blockchain user-friendly for every device and person.
At Modex, we can innovate thanks to our incredible team of experts and
we offer services for the entire blockchain technology ecosystem: marketplaces
for Smart Contracts, community tools for developers, and blockchain as database
services for enterprises.
Over the past two years, using cutting-edge technologies and a clear
strategy, Modex has evolved from the world's first app store for blockchain
into a complex ecosystem designed for developers' needs and enterprises looking
for blockchain solutions.
Our mission is to spread and facilitate the adoption of blockchain in
society and to solve real-world problems using this revolutionary technology.