As the digital landscape stands now, publishers are rewarded for churning out shocking stories with exaggerated headlines that can sometimes stand as outright lies.
Compounding the confusion, consumers are rewarded by peers for sharing the most astonishing and entertaining stories on social media. When stories “go viral,” publishers are rewarded with ad revenue jackpots. This feedback loop contributes to a gradual erosion of truth that is dangerous to the free world. Oxford Dictionaries declared the 2016 word of the year to be “post-truth.”
Escaping the “post-truth” era is going to require a seismic shift in culture in which people value facts more than hyperbole and reality more than fantasy. Fortunately, a few players in the blockchain community are shaping a different value structure for digital media that supports the creation and circulation of accurate, legitimate and true content.
Salvation Through Blockchains
Lunyr is a blockchain-backed, digital encyclopedia that rewards contributors for their work. One of the biggest challenges faced by the internet knowledge database Wikipedia is that it relies on volunteers to keep the platform running. Wikipedia’s contributor structure allows any editor to alter articles as they see fit. This hierarchy-free format renders Wikipedia vulnerable to bad actors who might be motivated to hide certain truths or propagate promotional stories in their own interests. In contrast, articles submitted to Lunyr must be peer-reviewed before they can be published. The community pays contributors who submit high-quality articles with Lunyr’s in-system tokens.
The Brave browser addresses a different facet of the current digital media cycle: ad dollars. Much of the online services enjoyed for free, including search, email, chat and video, would not be possible without money from advertisers. Consumers relinquish their power in the form of data in order to use these services supplied by Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. The more information these digital giants know about consumers, the better they are at predicting consumer desires and inclinations — incredibly valuable information for brands. The issue with ad dollars powering the digital economy is that, like politicians indebted to lobbyists, tech corporations are beholden to advertisers. The blockchain-based Brave browser aims to return the power of the purse into the hands of people by endowing users with the ability to choose which ads to permit and to make direct donations to publishers as compensation for producing quality content.
The growth of the internet brought about new platforms for creators, but the abundance of free content also made it difficult for creators to support themselves. This is, in large part, due to the lack of tracking mechanisms to identify creators when content has been shared across multiple websites and platforms. Web users must trust that the content they consume is legitimate.
Po.et is building the foundation for a trustless content licensing network wherein content is registered by creators on the Bitcoin blockchain. Once validated by the network, a permanent record is noted on the ledger as a time stamp. If Po.et succeeds in achieving mass adoption, its database of time-stamped content could resolve many questions licensers face about the origins of digital works.
The present digital media environment inadvertently incentivizes the creation, consumption and dissemination of inaccurate and illegitimate content on a mass scale. Lunyr, Brave and Po.et turn a media cycle based on shock value on its head by building systems that reward quality content and redistribute power from advertisers to consumers and publishers. These and other developing projects suggest that blockchain technology could help digital media players break out of the “post-truth” era and into reality.
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