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Getting the story straight: Blockchain to curb fake news

With the United States Presidential Election set for next month, the concern over fake news has once again dominated public discourse. Fake news — the deliberate spreading of verifiably false information under the disguise of being an authentic news story ­— not only undermines the public’s confidence in the free press, it inflames social conflict, can result in health hazards (like swallowing bleach in an attempt to avoid COVID-19), gives rise to radicalism, undermines the integrity of elections, and manipulates markets. In short, fake news threatens the social trust we have in our institutions and in each other.

Common solutions today, such as fact-checking websites and artificial intelligence algorithms are deployed only after the fact — they aim to detect fake news that has already been created. The Blockchain Center of Excellence at the University of Arkansas just completed a case study on ANSAcheck, developed by Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata — Italy’s top news wire service — and Big Four audit firm Ernst & Young, which takes a different approach. ANSAcheck authenticates the source of a news story and guarantees “the story came from ANSA.”

ANSA had previously suffered from imposter news. In March 2020, for example, there were at least three imposter stories related to COVID-19. The fake stories were distributed using the ANSA brand, format and signature. Instances like these prompted ANSA to launch the ANSAcheck project.

Stefano De Alessandri, ANSA’s CEO and managing director, said:

“Fake news is one of the biggest challenges facing traditional media organizations and social media platforms as it undermines the trust they have built with the public and advertisers, undermining their strategic asset that is their reputation. [...] If we lose trust, we lose everything.”

The ANSAcheck project started in 2019. Giuseppe Perrone, the head of EY’s blockchain initiatives in the Mediterranean, served as EY’s leader. The ANSAch...

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