There’s a considerable amount of hype surrounding blockchain still. For many people the first association might be bitcoin or something super complicated and unfathomable for the common person. However, something very important that compliments blockchain is actually integrity. Blockchain is all about validating – be it data or processes – but the outcome is always something you can trust.
In Estonia, blockchain is used to ensure the transparency and accountability of many public-sector services, including the e-Health Records, e-Prescription database, e-Law and e-Court Systems, e-Land Registry and many more. The same technology is actually used by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, European Union IT Agency, US Defence Department, Lockheed Martin and Ericsson among others.
Ok, but what does that have to do with news and content?
Living in the post-truth age of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, trust is paramount. However, how do you know when to trust a source of information? Especially when something appears to be really convincing – like the deepfake phenomenon, for example. These are videos created by machine-learning models that are able to analyse content and produce an outcome that is pretty much identical to the appearance and movements of the subject that is being “deepfaked”. Usually it’s celebrities and politicians that fall victim to this and in the case of the latter, of course, there will be questions of political reliability and how elections might be manipulated with deepfakes.
In the age of internet, it doesn’t take much for these inventions to go viral – after all, seeing is believing, right? There’s a plethora of information around us – be it videos, images or text. It’s not unthinkable at all that information that is distorted in some way, ends up on social media or even mainstream media. Do most people question the validity of what their friends post on Facebook or what are the sources to something you read online? Probably not.
So are there ways to make sure that the content we consume is actually true? To protect voters from misinformation, California, for example, has began to look into banning deepfakes altogether at least 60 days before an election. However, the technology used for the deepfakes can also be used for much better purposes – is it right to punish the technology? Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to make sure the original source of information is actually real and correct.
Blockchain to the rescue
As mentioned above, in Estonia many digital public services rely on blockchain to ensure data integrity. It’s also notable, however, that the official announcements and laws published digitally on Riigi Teataja are signed with KSI blockchain. This also applies to the President’s speeches which are published online. Essentially this is content that is proven to be original and not tampered with – the blockchain makes sure that the speech in question really is the unchanged one that the President gave. Similarily, everyone can check any piece of legislation directly from the source – the Riigi Teataja – and can be sure to trust it’s validity.
Since the source is mathematically proven to be trustworthy, it would be difficult to turn it into “alternative facts”. This way there is also more trust in web-based publications and readers need not worry about the validity of the content that is published in these blockchain backed environments.
Communication Manager at e-Estonia Briefing Centre