UPDATED 11:54 EST / JUNE 13 2018

EMERGING TECH

Adblock Plus maker launches blockchain-based browser plugin to fight fake news

Eyeo GmbH, the German developer of adblocking browser plugin Adblock Plus, today launched a new project designed to tackle fake news called Trusted News.

The new project is also a browser extension, initially available for Google Chrome, that would help users identify the credibility of news sources when browsing the web by providing icons identifying news as trustworthy, not trustworthy, satirical sites, malicious, clickbait or other categories.

“Fake news is profoundly affecting our society and our ability to make informed decisions as citizens,” said Till Faida, chief executive of Eyeo.

The company developed Trusted News in combination with MetaCert Protocol and works by checking domains, news sources, websites and news against a worldwide network of fact-checking resources. MetaCert aggregates trust and reputation data from politically independent fact-checking resources worldwide, including PolitiFact, Snopes, Wikipedia and Zimdars’ List.

Using the MetaCert Protocol, these “trust signals” are then organized into a machine-readable format and then cross-referenced with associated social media accounts in a massive world-spanning crowdsourced database of sources.

To build out its database and provide a better, more transparent experience for users, MetaCert is moving its platform onto the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a distributed ledger technology that allows users, fact-checkers and the MetaCert team to save credibility data in a way that will be more transparent and accessible even if MetaCerts central service is down.

By building onto a blockchain, MetaCert also provides a framework for an incentive economy in which users can submit news and validators can then verify identity and credibility. This incentive network uses a cryptocurrency, with a real-world value, that rewards submitters and validators whose work is embedded in the trust network and helps generate a reputation score aggregated by credibility within the community.

“Trusted News is still new, but there are two secrets in the sauce,” said Faida. “First, it is a solution for users, not an ambitious plan to reform platforms or information sources; and second, it separates the fact-checkers determining what is fake and what is not from the actual product applying the determination.”

The proliferation of “fake news” is a global problem that has struck internet users extremely hard especially with the easy spread of information on social networks. Fake news exists as a sort of murky misinformation and disinformation including propaganda, misleading content, imposter content and outright falsehoods written into what appear to be credible news sources, and sometimes picked up and cited by otherwise credible sources.

The University of Michigan Library describes fake news as “those news stories that are false: the story itself is fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources or quotes,” and it can include everything from propaganda to clickbait.

Facebook Inc., an extremely popular and major social media platform with more than a billion people active worldwide, recently teamed up with U.S.-based news media to fight fake news. That move followed a study that found Facebook was the biggest gateway for fake news during the period before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with 22 percent of fake news visits funneled through the site.

The use of blockchain technology to help fight fake news has also been sought after by startups such as Poland-based developer Userfeeds, the recipient of $800,000 in seed funding in 2017. Digital advertisers have also looked to blockchain technology to provide a platform to stop fraud and maintain credibility such as MetaX, developer of the adChain advertisement blockchain platform, and CyGuard Inc.

Users of the Chrome web browser can install the extension directly from the web store or visit the Trusted News website for further information.

Image: Eyeo

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