The New York Times is stepping into the blockchain space as it just announced a new project aimed at fighting fake news, leveraging IBM’s blockchain technology. The project will first experiment and tackle the area of photojournalism, because with the highly advanced technology of today, it is extremely easy to manipulate photos.
The new project was initiated by the publisher’s research and development team and is dubbed “The News Provenance Project”. According to the website for the project, the news media may not be directly responsible for creating the problem of fake news but a recent Pew Research Center study suggests that audiences are looking up to them to fix it and help navigate through the confusing landscape of misinformation.
The upcoming project will be experimenting with product design and user-facing tools in hopes of making the origins of journalistic content clearer to the audiences. According to the announcement post published by IBM, Provenance and authenticity are inextricably linked. It maintains that by establishing any product’s origin and documenting its journey from source to endpoint, consumers can rest assured that they are in fact dealing with authentic material, be it a product or an article.
It is even easier to circulate manipulated photos widely with wrong context and information. In order to tackle this area particularly, the post explains, the team is going to be conducting user research in which they will focus on whether audiences are able to sift through misinformation and genuine information, from a wide ecosystem of information published on the web.
In addition to conducting research, The New York Times will also be building a proof-of-concept implementation in collaboration with the IBM Garage which has employed projects similar to this in other industries. With blockchain tech’s ability to provide a shared, immutable ledger where data can be shared by all the involved parties in real time, it showed the promise of developing a workable solution for the publication. Hence, the newspaper revealed that it’ll begin by exploring Hyperledger Fabric, a permissioned and private blockchain framework.
According to reports, digital content of the News Provenance Project will work on the same dynamics of blockchain as in any industry. In order to increase the element of authenticity in photojournalism, the project will be leveraging the Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger Fabric and will be built on the IBM Blockchain Platform.
What it will do, according to IBM, is build an immutable record of each image that includes metadata as well as a detailed, tamper-evident history, thus tracking the photo as it’s republished and shared across the internet. Moreover a visual signal will also be linked and travel with the photo and anyone who clicks on it will be able to see its original source, context and full journey of the image.
Reportedly, this is only the first phase of the project that is scheduled to run from July to late 2019. After the learning acquired from the first phase, the publication revealed that it would later explore the technology for journalism as a whole.
Times also announced that this project isn’t solely limited to one publication, it openly invited other news organizations to join its initiative as a successful implementation will require collaboration. It is going to take more than just one publication, regardless of how prominent it is, to make a difference in the field of journalism.
The Times isn’t the only publication leveraging blockchain technology, last year Forbes also moved towards blockchain tech, although not for the same reasons as The New York Time. According to reports, the media company partnered with Civil, which is famously known as a blockchain marketplace for journalism, in order to upload its content on the Civil network. Forbes initially uploaded all the content related to cryptocurrency onto Civil with a broader aim is to move all their content onto Civil eventually. According to Salah Zalatimo, Senior Vice President of Product & Technology at Forbes:
We have an opportunity to participate in the development of this ecosystem and help shape it around our unique business model
The statement suggests that the century-old business publisher is more interested in setting a trend and making its place in the new technological world rather than helping solve the problem of widespread misinformation.
The News Provenance Project is in its early stages but the Times has high hopes for it. The project won’t only focus on employing blockchain to just validate images, it will also eventually be used to validate for the stories the Times produces.