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Reporting fake news has become a common practice in recent months.

The fake news phenomenon has gained popularity after the election of US President Donald Trump, referring to news that didn’t necessarily contain the whole truth (or that simply presented a fanciful version of the facts).

This year, with Brazil set to go through one of the most polarized elections in its history, fake news will most likely be present in the country’s political scene. The tendency is for them to be used to manipulate information both to hurt and to push candidates.

Do you want to know more about this topic and learn how to report fake news using blockchain technology?

If so, check out our post today! What are fake news? Rumors and hoaxes are not a novelty on the internet – and even less so less in society.

The propagation of false news for political purposes has been present in humanity since before the creation of the press. However, the internet has created mechanisms for manipulated information to achieve far greater reach (and power).

This is the fake news phenomenon. The term is used to identify false (or partially true) publications scattered through search engines and social networks. They take advantage of the popularization of the internet to gain more reach and generate financial income to those who disseminate them, or for political purposes.

Why do people create fake news?

As we have pointed out, fake news generally emerge for two specific reasons, which usually go together. They can have political ends (disrupt the election of a candidate, create a narrative based on unrealistic facts, or propel an organized political movement) or financial, generating revenue with targeted advertising mechanisms by creating news with high potential for viralization.

The creation of false news for political purposes, for example, helps to create alternative versions of facts (leading some to argue that we now live in an era of post-truth politics) and to attack other politicians.

An example is PizzaGate, a hoax that accused the existence of a pedophile network maintained by Democratic Party politicians in the United States that supposedly had its headquarters in a pizzeria. The fake story appeared in 4chan, the imageboard known as the birthplace of many memes and online parodies, and was replicated by sites famous for sharing fake content.

The publication of false news for financial purposes also has impacts in the real world. Such is the case of the “fake news factories” in Macedonia, said to have influenced the 2016 American election.

How are fake news created?

Fake news can be published on web pages and blogs that try to pose as real news companies (in an attempt to fool visitors), or in vehicles of the self-proclaimed “alternative media”. Those news are built with sophisticated SEO work, using sensationalist language, and even addressing real issues mixed with with fake snippets in order to make the content sound true.

After being published, the news can be shared by a network of fake profiles. The content creator can even pay for social networks like Facebook to extend the reach of the article. This is done using precise targeting, which drives the news to selected audiences that are more likely to share the article.

All fake news is produced and distributed with the support of a structure that appeals to the user’s confirmation bias, maximizing its reach.

How are Google and Facebook working to identify fake news?

Both Google and Facebook, two of the main Internet news outlets, are creating fact-checking tools. They will be used as a means to identify and reduce the reach of fake news, and to report to the user that a link contains inaccurate information.

In the case of the search engine, search results that lead to news will receive a verification stamp based on its level of “truthfulness”. Before a person accesses the link, it will be displayed whether the content is true, which agency did this verification and who reported it as fake.

Facebook, in preparation for this year’s election in Brazil, has announced changes and partnerships with two news agencies: Aos Fatos (“To the Facts”) and Lupa (“Magnifying Glass”). The idea is to reduce the organic reach of fake news by up to 80%.

The agencies will have access to a list of fake news reported by users. Once the information on the links is verified, they will receive a stamp of truth that will be displayed to the user whenever the content is published. News marked as fake, then, will not be allowed to be promoted by pages.

Those who insist on the idea may even have their reach reduced and the possibility of monetizing content cut.

How to report fake news?

During the 2018 Brazilian election, reporting fake news for political ends will be relatively easy. In December 2017, the Superior Electoral Court (“Superior Tribunal de Justiça”, TSE) announced that it intends to create a tool for users to report fake news over the internet.

The channel should also serve for voters to report electoral crimes (such as buying votes), expanding the ability of voters to monitor candidates during the election period.

How can blockchain-based solutions help fight fake news?

Anyone who works with technology, at this point, has probably heard of blockchain. The technology, that has Bitcoin as its most famous application, is changing the way companies do business, reducing costs and revolutionizing the way institutions deal with transparency standards.

Among those many uses, tools to report fake news can be found. In a nutshell, the blockchain is a decentralized database, in which information base shared between multiple network nodes, with security mechanisms in place to protect against fraud. Its structure allows the information to be verified for modifications, and it is precisely this philosophy that allows for its use in combating fake news.

There is also the possibility to save fake news to be used as proof in judicial proceedings. Today, this process can be done in notary offices. However, it can be so expensive as to make it virtually unfeasible. But thanks to the blockchain, lawyers now can use solutions like OriginalMy to combat fake news that slander their clients.

The tool scans the page and generates a report in .pdf format that is certified in blockchain to ensure that the content existed and was published in a certain manner at the defined time. Thus, compiliging evidence in favor of a client will be more easier and cheaper. This allows you to generate evidence yourself, without the help of notary, reducing the time required to register the false content.

Finally, the registry will have a number of mechanisms to ensure that the information was generated in a trusted environment. And if the user wishes, the notarized authentication can be done on top of that, giving even more validity to the report.

Are you interested in this technology and want to know how the blockchain can be used for purposes other than reporting fake news? Stay in tune with our blog and other social media platforms.