19/11/2018

Worried about the fake news epidemic? Learn what you can do to fight it!

Who here hasn’t seen on Facebook or received in the Whatsapp family group those news pieces that seem WAY too bizarre to be true? Honestly, I don’t know about you, but I come across A LOT of them every day, especially in election season! These are called the so-called fake news. Although not exactly a new phenomenon, they have gained special prominence in recent times – especially after the election of Donald Trump, since during the 2016 US presidential race several scandals related to information manipulation and the propagation of “alternative facts” emerged.

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In Brazil, they have also caused an uproar in the elections, especially with false content being created to benefit or harm candidates. According to IBOPE, the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, a few weeks before the election 85% of people thought that fake news would influence the results!

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That is a very high number, but such a concern makes sense. We live in a world where information is shared so fast that we simply don’t have time to stop and analyze everything. Even worse, most of us don’t even have the necessary training to do that! While some fake news pieces are quite absurd and can be identified with relative ease, others fuse true information with false ones, or deal with issues so complex that it becomes difficult to verify their veracity.

The fake news may even seem like a small thing compared to the many other problems we face, but they are not! Instead, they can cause real damage. The situation is so serious that the Brazilian Senate, for example, has even proposed a bill to fight it: the PL 473/2017 brings a penalty of up to three years in jail, as well as a fine, to people who share news that they know to be false.

The bottom line here? We need to FIGHT fake news URGENTLY, and you can help to do it!

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Then, how do we fight fake news?

First of all, although it may sound obvious, we should start paying more attention to what we read, guys! Is the news piece bringing information that seems suspicious or over-exaggerated? CHECK YOUR SOURCES! In times of fake news, you must carefully analyze everything that doesn’t come from known and verified sources. As a good practice, check a couple of other sources before you blindly BELIEVE in a story and get out there spreading it around.

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The second step is to RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO PRESS THE SHARE BUTTON! If you have seen content that does not seem to be completely true and is controversial, don’t share it! This is how fake news goes viral and end up everywhere. Have you ever heard that expression, “a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”? That’s how! The more people share this kind of content, the more people will end up believing it! Don’t forget, you are responsible for what you share on the network!

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The third step is to REPORT. As you probably already know, you can report posts and pages on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. These, however, are not the only options. A new tool is becoming popular and presenting itself as an ally in the fight against fake news: blockchain technology.

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Using blockchain against fake news

Blockchain technology has become quite well-known because of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, but its uses go far beyond virtual money. In short, it is a distributed, decentralized database that functions as a ledger. Before you ask me “OK, but so what?”, let’s go to the crucial point: in it, information is stored with a timestamp and cannot be modified or deleted.

And what does it have to do with fake news?

Well, let’s break it down. If you decide to take action against fake news, such as suing the person behind it, you will need to produce evidence. The problem is that web pages can be removed, so you always have the risk that when you go to the police station to complain, the post is no longer there!

Currently, it is possible to register at the notary office that a certain piece of news exists, but this tends to be an expensive and cumbersome endeavor (as practically everything that involves the notary offices is…).

With blockchain, however, this process can become much easier and cheaper. OriginalMy, for example, offers a plugin that scans the page containing the fake news and generates a PDF report stating that that content was posted and existed in such a manner at a given time. This report is then certified in the blockchain, so even if the fake news piece is removed, the evidence that it existed will remain. You can find out more about how this all works in the video bellow. It is in Portuguese, but you can choose English subtitles!

So, what you think of the current epidemics of fake news? Do you have any suggestion as to what can be done to fight it? Then post here in the comments and don’t forget to share it with your friends!

You can also check out our post about how blockchain can help to improve democracy in the elections and beyond.