Having arguably thrown the biggest spanner of the decade into the digital advertising economy, AdBlock Plus owner Eyeo’s next crusade is to rid the web of fake news, and it plans to use blockchain in the fight.
Introduced in beta as a new Chrome extension, the eventual plan for Trusted News is to gather and reward user-generated feedback on sites, which will be processed and stored on a decentralised database. As a result, users will be able to see when a news source is classed as “trustworthy”, “unknown”, “clickbait” or even “satire”.
The current ratings are based on data available from fact-checking sites including Politifact, Snopes, Wikipedia and Zimdars’ list, but the database will ultimately be transitioned to Ethereum blockchain, where it will reward fraud-resistant MetaCert tokens to users who submit genuine feedback on news-source validity.
Explaining where blockchain technology fits into the programme, eyeo’s director of communications, Ben Williams, told TechCrunch that in addition to providing feedback, users will also be able to dispute the ratings of certain news sources; “They can say ‘hey I don’t feel like this site should be listed as biased because whatever’, and we’re going to use that feedback to make the product better […] the next step is to decouple that from any server, and from any third-party, and give it directly to the blockchain,” he said.
The extension is free, and at least so far Eyeo claims there won’t be any whitelisting service akin to that of AdBlock Plus, which controversially allows certain advertisers to bypass the effects of its service for a fee.
But while the announcement apparently has only noble motivations, a potential flaw pointed out by Engadget is that those users who would actively seek to install the extension are likely to already be critical of what they read online. On the other hand, the consumers that really need it, those that already trust deceptive news outlets, may be unreceptive to installing an extension that challenges their beliefs.
While Williams has emphasised that Trusted News is only out to trial, it remains to be seen just how effective and popular the tool can be. But that Adblock Plus is using its omnipresent scale in efforts to combat the damage caused by the proliferation of misinformation is admirable, and just further evidence of the sweeping applications of blockchain technology in providing transparency.