School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Entrepreneur talks at Overby about fighting fake news with technology

Posted on: February 14th, 2018 by drwenger

Can technology tackle fake news concerns?  Entrepreneur Robert Hendrickson answered that question with a yes in the Overby Auditorium on Thursday, February 15. He was talking about NewsCheck, a new approach that leverages blockchain technology in order to ward against misinformation online. Hendrickson sees his company bringing together a number of different disciplines, including journalism.

“There’s a definite potential opportunity to cross-pollinate learnings across the different schools,” Hendrickson said.

Together with Robert Wolcott, clinical professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Hendrickson has created a program that equips consumers to “know, trust, share” as the NewsCheck slogan advertises. Consumers can know if the content is real or fake, trust the source, and then share on social media.

Hendrickson and Wolcott developed something called the NewsCheck Trust Index, a ranking system that creates a score for content by holding it to the journalistic standards of truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, and humanity and accountability. By using distributed ledger technology (DLT), NewsCheck is able to store information in multiple nodes instead of in one easily-targeted database.

“DLT makes the content virtually immutable,” Hendrickson said. “If you store the same thing in multiple locations and mark it properly, you know that that is the content and it can’t be changed. As technology moves forward, the ability for people to take the New York Times banner and put it on a fake article is going to be easier and easier to do. Not only does the consumer want to know it is verified content, but the New York Times as a brand has a vested interest as well because people could put aggressive or derogatory content under their banner and hurt their brand.”

Individual journalists may also benefit as they create a portfolio of pieces verified by NewsCheck and establish their own credibility.

Hendrickson says the NewsCheck app is being continuously improved, moving from text-only to including other types of media such as video, virtual reality, and augmented reality content. As of now, users can upload text and NewsCheck will cross-compare the content with a machine learning device and actual people enrolled as credible reviewers. Both scores are combined to create one aggregate score delivered right to the phone or web app.

When content has been validated by NewsCheck, the triple check logo will appear with the NewsCheck Trust Index score. When clicked, it reveals more information on the source and content, bias rating, and credibility rating.

Hendrickson is in communication with Facebook and other platforms to incorporate the NewsCheck Trust Index into the articles published there.

Story contributed by graduate student Jacqueline Schlick.