How Bitcoin’s Blockchain Technology Is Changing the Media
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Bitcoin had a successful 2017, with the value of the cryptocurrency rising nearly 2,000 percent in a single year. Its meteoric rise brought cryptocurrencies into the mainstream, with competitors like Ethereum and Litecoin also seeing large gains. While this has been an interesting financial development, it has turned Bitcoin from a digital currency What Is Bitcoin: The MakeUseOf BitCoin Guide What Is Bitcoin: The MakeUseOf BitCoin Guide Whether you just want to find out more about BitCoin or to actually use the currency, you'll want to check out "Virtual Currency: The BitCoin Guide", the latest manual from author Lachlan Roy. Read More into a financial asset to be bought and sold. This has largely eclipsed what made Bitcoin so revolutionary: blockchain technology.

First laid out in Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper, the blockchain is a decentralised, distributed ledger. The cryptographically sealed data How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More is distributed across the network, preventing it from interference. Many businesses have been quick to jump onto the popular buzzword, suggesting that anything from mortgages to an individual’s creative output What Is a Cryptocurrency ICO and Can You Make Money? What Is a Cryptocurrency ICO and Can You Make Money? ICOs attract a lot of attention, and can raise a huge amount of money. But how do you choose a "real" project? And will you just end up losing out? Read More could be blockchain-based. However, one industry, in desperate need of change, that could benefit from the use of the blockchain, is the media.

The State of the Media

It’s no secret that journalism has struggled with the advent of the internet. In days gone by, you’d purchase a newspaper and your money would fund the high quality journalism. At some point, everyone agreed that content on the internet would be free, but the funds have to come from somewhere. Often it is through advertising, but this generates significantly less than sales. They could then accept a lower standard of reporting, without fact checking, which has given rise to churnalism. The other choice is to accept more money for sponsored posts.

The internet also gave rise to the personal blog, where regular folks could write content and post it to the web for the world to see. Blogs are the mouthpiece of an individual rather than a corporation or advertiser, and so have become incredibly important to the media landscape. However, they are also entirely unverified. If you could combine the freedom and independence of blogging, with the fact checking of journalism, could you reinvent the industry?

A New Model of Journalism

Two blockchain-based startups, Decentralized News Network (DNN) and Civil, certainly think so. DNN is based on the Ethereum blockchain, and allows anyone to submit content — as if they were writing a blog. The content is then assessed by a randomly assigned group of reviewers. If the article meet the DNN guidelines, then it will be made available to readers. Aside from residing on the blockchain to sidestep censorship and centralization, DNN operates a lot like a scientific journal with their peer review process.

Civil is also based on the Ethereum blockchain, but has a different operating model. Civil’s platform allows you to create newsrooms and stations, where readers and journalists intermingle to create a news platform. In many ways, this replicates the media structure, but removes barriers to entry so that the creation of news is democratized.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Fake News?

You may feel nauseous every time you hear it, but “fake news” was one of the most popular words of 2017. The term is sometimes applied too liberally, but verifying information on the internet is a huge challenge. The clearest example of this is Wikipedia, where even crowd-sourced content and multiple references can’t always be relied for unbiased fact Is Wikipedia Reliable? Here Are Some Tips on How to Find Out Is Wikipedia Reliable? Here Are Some Tips on How to Find Out How credible is Wikipedia? Is Wikipedia reliable? Can you trust the information that you find in a particular article there? Here are some tips on how to find out. Read More .

One of the difficulties in debunking fake news it that often it has already spread and established as the “correct” version of events. In a fast paced and ever changing 24-hour news cycle, by the time thorough fact checking has been done, the narrative has already been cemented, and the news coverage has moved on.

blockchain is changing the media fake news

Sites like Wikitribune, from Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and Snopes Avoid Fake News and Verify the Truth With These 5 Sites and Apps Avoid Fake News and Verify the Truth With These 5 Sites and Apps There are plenty of lies floating around on the internet. From extensions that flag notorious fake news outlets to websites that bust hoaxes and myths, here are the five resources you need. Read More attempt to provide fact checked journalism, but they require readers to change their news source.

Instead, Copenhagen-based Media Sifter hopes to decentralize the media and promote critical thinking. Their blockchain-based SIFT protocol allows users to share multiple sources on a story. Then, when reading your favorite publication, you are presented with different viewpoints alongside it. Users are incentivized to do this crowd-sourced investigative work using the SFT token, which is their take on a cryptocurrency. It’s decentralized nature means that it should be free of government or business interference, an often-expressed problem in the current media landscape.

Preventing an Outbreak

Fake news is a problem, but it would be severely limited if it weren’t for social media. News travels fast through social media How Can Social Networks Get Rid of Misinformation and Harassment? How Can Social Networks Get Rid of Misinformation and Harassment? We see fake news stories and serious harassment on Facebook and Twitter, but the social giants are trying to stop it. What have they done? And will it help make the internet a better place? Read More , and there is little verification of fact. People retweet, churn out their own views, and bots even parrot propaganda How Social Media Is The Newest Military Battleground How Social Media Is The Newest Military Battleground Britain has revived the 77th Brigade, notorious for its use of unorthodox strategies during WW2, in order to gather intelligence, spread propaganda and control overarching narratives on Facebook and Twitter. Could they be watching you? Read More . The events at London’s Oxford Circus on Black Friday gave a demonstration on how social media spreads fake news.

A fight in the underground station led to evacuations, panic, and multiple tweets about terrorist attacks and gunshots. Even celebrities that weren’t in the immediate area helped to spread misinformation. It also doesn’t help when the platforms themselves intentionally promote misinformation all in the name of profit.

Steemit, a blockchain-based social network All About Steemit: A New Approach to Decentralized Social Media All About Steemit: A New Approach to Decentralized Social Media Steemit is a new blockchain-based social media initiative that is challenging everything about the way we communicate ideas on social media. Here's what you should know about it. Read More , hopes to change the nature of social media. Initially, Steemit seems like a mashup between Reddit and Twitter, where users can post content and get upvoted. However, if your content is well received you will be rewarded with STEEM, the platform’s cryptocurrency. The best content should then rise to the top as there is a monetary value to an upvote.

The best content, and therefore most respected users, have a financial incentive to produce high-quality content. For their part, Steemit users have an incentive to only reward high-quality posts as its their STEEM that pays the author.

Going Through Changes

The internet has changed many things for the better and put information into the palm of your hand. It should be easier than ever to find factual reporting of events around the world. Unfortunately, the economics of the industry hasn’t adapted to this new model. Blockchain technology offers a unique mechanism that may alleviate, or even eradicate, many of these issues. This could rid the world of fake news and propaganda — or at least make it easier to spot.

Platforms like Steemit and their micropayments offer an intriguing example of how high quality journalism could be funded, without the need for advertising. However, convincing people to adopt the blockchain is the largest challenge many of these platforms face. The democratic nature of blockchain tech presents a unique adoption problem — something that the multiple Bitcoin forks have found throughout the year.

What do you think of the blockchain? Will it revolutionize the media? Or is it simply the latest buzzword with no chance of real change? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Image Credit: nils.ackermann.gmail.com/Depositphotos

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  1. Fred Thompson
    January 3, 2018 at 5:31 am

    "Again, I haven't said that it is exclusively the blockchain is the catylst. Instead it is the fundamental technology that will allow these companies and services to operate. I see where you are coming from, but the title is referring to the media industry, not the content itself."
    No, James, you directly claim that blockchain, which is really nothing more than a checksum data container, has the ability to create profit for "the (news) media."
    That is absurd.
    Checksums are only capable of validating that data has not been modified.
    The fundamental financial problems of the "media" come from their loss of monopoly power AND their lust for manipulative power over people which places them inherently at odds with the interests of their market.
    There is no technology which can ever change human nature.
    The example businesses you mention are nothing more than fluff wrapped in fad words.
    They're like the old statement about gold-plated turds are still turds.
    Your choice of title and your central and secondary premises of this post are not, and cannot be, validated by virtue of a more secure "envelope" used to wrap information.
    Blockchain does not "allow these companies and services to operate" any more than LACK of blockhain would PROHIBIT them from operating.
    What does blockchain give them besides a little bit of temporary hype? Nothing. Ergo, blockchain is IRRELEVANT to such business activities.

  2. Fred Thompson
    January 2, 2018 at 12:10 am

    Fake news is fake because it is untruthful. Their lack of foundational honesty is their problem. Distribution method is irrelevant.

    Additionally, you fundamentally do NOT understand blockchain if you think the volume of data created by "news media" could possibly be delivered in such a manner.

    • James Frew
      January 2, 2018 at 12:14 am

      While the source of the "news" is the primary problem, many of these services aim to give additional resources to verifying the original source. Having written a number of blockchain-based articles, I believe that I do understand the technical limitations of any blockchain technology. However, I also don't believe that at any point I stated explictly that any of these services would support the kind of volumes you allude to.

      • Fred Thompson
        January 2, 2018 at 6:33 am

        "While the source of the 'news' is the primary problem..."

        No. The "primary problem" is the damage caused by human beings intentionally lying to manipulate other human beings. No human-created technology could ever remove that.

        "It should be easier than ever to find factual reporting of events around the world. Unfortunately, the economics of the industry hasn’t adapted to this new model. Blockchain technology offers a unique mechanism that may alleviate, or even eradicate, many of these issues. This could rid the world of fake news and propaganda — or at least make it easier to spot."

        BS. Blockchain is nothing more than a fancy checksum. Checksums can only validate structure, not content.

        Blockchain will no more convert "news" into fact than the crossbow ended warfare, the world economy ended when whale oil supplies ceased, or computers removed paper from daily use.

        How does blockchain inherently provide "additional resources to verify...the original source?" Blockchain has NOTHING to do with that. Similar claims were made for blogs, browser extensions that allowed shared markup to web pages, the printing press, etc., etc., etc.

        Your article is titled, "How Bitcoin’s Blockchain Technology Is Changing the Media" - it has not, and cannot CHANGE the Media. Blockchain is a checksum/encapsulation method. That's ALL it is. It's not an arbiter of truth.

        • James Frew
          January 2, 2018 at 10:30 am

          Again, I haven't said that it is exclusively the blockchain is the catylst. Instead it is the fundamental technology that will allow these companies and services to operate. I see where you are coming from, but the title is referring to the media industry, not the content itself.