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Blockchain Innovation: Restoring Trust in Our Media and Beyond

Martin Jones

Martin Jones

It’s Blockchain Week here in Boston, and developers, researchers and students are gathering to explore the evolution of blockchain and cryptocurrency. With the blockchain technology market poised to grow from $600 million to $7.74 billion by 2024, we’re taking some time to think about how this technology might affect the communications industry.

Some of blockchain’s defining characteristics, like its decentralized nature, security and trustworthiness, make it a valuable tool for all of us in the communications world. Participants in the blockchain are able to tell where data comes from, so they can trust that it’s real. That functionality will be essential to restoring trust in all kinds of media.

As we deal with the continuing fallout from the era of ‘alternative facts’, blockchain news platforms are an intriguing way to combat misinformation and reinstate trust in media institutions.

Innovative blockchain news platforms are already looking to capitalize on this idea. The World News, the first blockchain-based news service, compiles a catalog of articles from various news sources and designates what’s ‘trusted’. Using neural networks and blockchain technology, The World News will document and verify any changes to stories. In essence, they’re fighting fake news and alternative facts by showing readers what they can actually trust.

Another blockchain platform, Decentralized News Network is built around incentivizing quality, peer-reviewed content over sensationalized, click-bait stories. Thanks to blockchain, the platform’s decentralized structure allows for a collaborative news environment, where the focus is on verifiable facts – something we could certainly use more of.

It’s not just about truth in the face of alternative facts, though. Decentralized blockchain news platforms are also uniquely positioned to protect the freedom of the press. Private and secure, yet verifiable and trustworthy, blockchain technology helps journalists publish important stories safely, while keeping their identity, data and sources private.

We’re also seeing journalists start to use blockchain to disseminate and verify images, something that’s especially useful when documenting atrocities, or disproving hoaxes. Because the location and date are recorded on the blockchain, there’s proof that a photo was taken at a certain time and location.

That functionality presents an interesting opportunity for the comms industry. We’re likely to see comms teams use blockchain to ensure the integrity of various types of content, like a CEO’s speech or an embargoed press release.

It’s also a way to build trust with consumers, by demonstrating that the stories you’re telling are true. A company might appeal to values-driven buyers by revealing the complete supply chain of a product. Consumers will know that the product they’re buying really is organic, or sustainably produced, for example.

Exaggeration and outright lies about products and services may soon be a thing of the past, with the side benefit of increasing consumers’ trust in businesses. This may go some way to challenging some of the negative perceptions of the PR industry as a whole, such as exaggeration and ‘spin’. As communicators, our expertise should be seen in the context of delivering the best possible true story to the right audience rather than as masters of manipulation.

We’re keeping a keen eye on other ways that blockchain innovations may disrupt the PR industry. Let’s keep the conversation going.