Tackling fake news problem with blockchain

Digital sphere introduced us to a variety of possibilities for creating and sharing content and humankind widely accepted it and started using these opportunities. Producing and exhibiting digital content stopped being an exclusive right of journalists, filmmakers, producers and suddenly all of us became creators.

Sounds easy, cool and democratic as it is, but have in mind that this transformation in ‟who is a transmitterˮ unfolded a phenomenon of fake news. Simply, a transmitter is an important link in a communication chain. Some would say the most important.

As an illustration for the rise of fake news consider the following facts:

  • fake news was announced word of the year 2017 by the Collins Dictionary;
  • word post-truth (which is somehow linked with fake news) was word of the year 2016 by the Oxford Dictionary;
  • there are researches which show that fake news influenced Presidential Elections in 2016 (the top 20 fake news stories about it received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 election stories from 19 major media outlets showed a study by BuzzFeedNews); [1]
  • on a bigger scale, fake news can mislead a person’s view on any topic a pseudo-news is processing as it is, by definition ‟false story that appears to be news, spread on the Internet or using another mediaˮ. As it is, false news can lead to serious manipulation, forming false conclusions and even to insults, reputation damage, racism and international conflicts.

In short, fake news is abominable and dangerous.

Luckily, among many other things technology offers us the solution for fake news as well and this solution is called blockchain.

A tool for detecting fake news

The use of blockchain as a tool for detecting fake news is still at the outset. However, Gartner reports that by 2023 up to 30% of world news and video content will be authenticated by blockchain. [2]

Currently, studies about blockchain and fake news are mostly focused on a source of information, letting each node in a blockchain system determine whether a source is trustworthy or not.

When it comes to content, things get more complicated, but blockchain offers a solution for that as well – maybe you cannot supervise an exact content, but you can trace the data, communication architecture and transactions in it. And this is where blockchain steps in. It allows content consumers to see if some content was edited and how many times it was changed no matter if we want to do it for a text, a picture or a video.

How would it look like in practice?

Imagine that content (in this case news) producers, publishers and consumers are nodes in one blockchain. Firstly, producers and publishers should verify themselves as sources of information and that data will be stored in the system. Step 2: some news producer (in this case journalist) places a news into the system and info about the source becomes visible to all nodes in that particular blockchain (including news consumers). Later, in case a publisher, editor or journalist themselves decide to change the news mentioned in step 2, data about the change becomes traceable to nodes, too. In the end, consumers get to use data about a source of information and changes made to it and to decide who is a trustworthy source of information and which news is fake. 

Furthermore, consumers’ votes about particular sources or information will be available to other nodes present in the blockchain system, leaving the data about uprights and frauds visible to everybody.

Due to the decentralization of blockchain, this data cannot be corrected and manipulated, but stays credible, tamper-proof and effectively handled.

New age – old challenges

Yellow press, propaganda and mass media manipulation have been on stage for a long time. Therefore, it is important to recognise that digital media didn’t patent fake news, it only multiplied its production and influence.

Fortunately, the rise of digital introduced us with the new ways of combating fake news (including blockchain technology). The use of this technology in media systems is still in the rise, but there are some examples of implementing it. F.e. The New York Times was one of the first media houses to introduce blockchain for photo content [3], there are many fact-checking platforms working on blockchain principle and many more will come.

Stay tuned, blockchain could turn the news industry upside-down.


[1] https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook

[2] https://www.computerworld.com/article/3481633/how-blockchain-will-kill-fake-news-and-four-other-predictions-for-2020.html

[3] https://open.nytimes.com/introducing-the-news-provenance-project-723dbaf07c44

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