The New York Times tests Blockchain

The New York Times tests Blockchain

The New York Times is investigating whether Blockchain technology could help restore confidence in online media.

Its News Provenance Project, created in partnership with IBM, wants to help readers better understand and trust news photos based on contextual information, stored in that holy grail of immutability: the chain of blocks.

Disinformation is a growing problem. Misinformation is a complex problem. Both problems are accelerated by new technologies, exacerbated by bad actors who deliberately seek to deceive.

The New York Times seeks to reduce the spread of misinformation. Empowering readers to make more informed and confident judgments about the news they see online

News organizations strive to present information as accurately as possible. Providing background on what they have learned and verified during reporting.

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The New York Times has created a prototype of a fake social network
To explore whether any of this is viable, The New York Times has created a prototype of a fake social network.

With the prototype in hand, the team tracked the status of a photo throughout its life. From the moment it was taken and published, to how it was edited, as well as the subtitles that were written next to the photo.

Thanks to the immutable nature of the Blockchain technology, any changes were recorded and available for review. The smart contracts also ensured that only certain people could access the photo metadata.

Project director Pooja Reddy concluded that the additional information helped readers better understand the origin of a photo story. Thanks to the context provided by that image.

One challenge is the requirement for member publications to review and validate content published by other media. Which could prove to be a complex task.

Another challenge is to match the online photos with the originals in the block chain. Which could be helped by technologies such as computer vision or perceptual hash.

Finally, cost is an issue. Because, the New York Times prototype project required significant financial and technical overhead. And smaller news organizations may not be able to overcome such obstacles.

Ultimately, such a system can only succeed with participation at scale. Reddy wrote that his team is working to generate more interest and support for this and other related projects.

The New York Times uses IBM’s Blockchain platform

Technologically, the system used an IBM Blockchain platform, developed directly by IBM Garage, to ensure that data remains tamper-proof. The system requires an authorized business block chain „to ensure that the right network members have the right permissions for the metadata,“ the blog post explains.

Following user feedback, the New York Times team realized that, in addition to knowing when the photo was taken, readers are also interested in knowing where it appeared first.

However, the solution is still a prototype and the publication team encountered several problems in the implementation.