The New York Times Tackles Fake News


The News Provenance Project is one of the latest endeavors of the New York Times Research and Development department. The idea behind the project is universal – audiences worldwide deserve to receive information about the publications they read online. According to the newspaper, fake news is compromising the integrity of journalistic work, and will soon make people lose interest in news altogether.

Considering this global threat, the R&D department started looking into ways to incorporate blockchain technology, to provide users with authentication for supplementary materials like photos and videos, and the metadata of online publications. 

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In partnership with IBM and Hyperledger Fabric

In order to authenticate the origin of photos, the newspaper will turn to the services of Hyperledger Fabric and IBM’s accelerator program IBM Garage. Hyperledger’s smart contract engine will perform the authentication functions.

Both IBM Garage and Hyperledger Fabric are pioneers in blockchain technology, which means that the New York Times is on to introduce a revolution in the publishing world. Blockchain authentication has already entered many fields like banking and retail, however, the publishing industry is still lagging behind. This partnership will allow publishers to give readers trustworthy information about the sources of information used in online publications. 

How will blockchain authentication work?

The New York Times had to turn to blockchain technology in order to make the authentication information available to all readers worldwide. This is possible thanks to benefits like smart contracts and decentralized ledgers. Information about the origin of photos and videos will be stored on blockchains, which means that it will be accessible to every single reader. Not only that, but the decentralized blockchain offers an increased level of security, which means that metadata gathered about publications cannot be altered.

According to the New York Times, each image will carry a set of data signals, which contain the identification information of the pictures featured in any given publication. The Times has announced that the project is still being developed, however, a proof of concept document is expected in a couple of months. 

Blockchain authentication has the potential to make online publications trustworthy, as it gives newspapers the opportunity to provide their readers with contextual data about all pieces. This includes information about the origin of supplementary materials, and other sources used in the compiling of the publications. 

Battling fake news in the publishing industry

Fake news is taking the world by a storm, and the public in the United States is one of the most affected by this trend. Nowadays, the publication of fake news is one of the leading methods for misinformation and political propaganda. This is why the News Provenance Project is actively searching for solutions to fake news propaganda. According to a survey from 2016, more than twenty percent of Americans admit that they have at some point shared a fake news article. 

What is more worrying is that the amount of fake publications rises considerably during the election season. Fake information and statements have a serious influence on the outcome of elections, which is why the New York Times has decided to start researching ways to battle such publications.

While many publishing houses and newspapers have managed to gain their audiences’ trust, an innovative approach like the one the New York Times has chosen is going to boost trustworthiness across the industry. As smart contracts and blockchain ledgers cannot be altered by third parties, media outlets will get the opportunity to boost their reliability. 

The News Provenance Project is the first step towards a major redesign of the publishing industry. So far, newspapers and magazines have depended solely on their name and reputation to serve as proof of their integrity. However, with the adoption of blockchain technology and smart contract verification, publishers will be able to give readers better authenticated content.

Throughout my experience, as a media analyst, I’ve had the pleasure to work for the European Central Bank, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Societe Generale, Hilton Hotels, and Aviva International. I am also a passionate contributor to a number of leading cryptocurrency and blockchain news websites. These experiences have given me a deep insight regarding the financial world, blockchain enterprises and institutions and practices involved in it. I am extremely excited to be a part of Business Blockchain HQ as this is a team of professionals who definitely have worthy material to share.

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