peshkova - Fotolia
Blockchain provides authenticity. Trusting cryptocurrency requires confidence on the part of the user, guaranteeing that a particular currency cannot possibly be faked. By providing a permanent, immutable transaction ledger, it fulfills not only the assurance of authenticity, but it offers full traceability -- a built-in audit -- so that the origins and movement of the currency are beyond question.
And in the digital domain, there's no difference in principle between currency and any other content. As a result, blockchain technology can be applied to enterprise content, as well as content for public consumption. It's not a perfect analogy: While blockchain can provide the assurances that effective content management requires, there are some conceptual incompatibilities.
- Content is editable, but cryptocurrency is not. Part of the point of blockchain is to render a digital asset unmodifiable.
- Blockchain builds in anonymity, but that's not what usually matters in content management; it's more about the traceability -- the certainty that information comes from trusted sources.
- Content is an essential feature of ECM's scalability. Nothing surges in data servers like enterprise content, especially when it's public-facing, so ECM systems must scale effectively and often rapidly. Blockchain, by its nature, is computationally self-defeating when it comes to scaling --slow and deliberate.
Still, in this age of content services, there are specific use cases in which CMS blockchain could make content more reliable, trustworthy and traceable; and less vulnerable to digital thieves, forgers and predators. Here are nine potential use cases.
1. Tracking content rights and royalties
In June 2018, Ernst & Young announced that it was partnering with Microsoft to produce a blockchain-based content rights and royalty management system for game publishing. The system will create real-time transaction transparency, eliminating the current methods of administrating content rights that require wasteful and inaccurate reconciliation processes.
This is expected to streamline administrative workflow and improve efficiency and accuracy in royalty distribution. This model could be applied to many different entertainment and educational content types.
2. Managing digital rights
In October 2018, Sony Electronics Inc. announced a similar project: its Music Entertainment and Global Education divisions would use blockchain technology to implement digital rights management (DRM) for educational data. DRM isn't new to the scene, but it is notoriously difficult to work with.
Sony's new blockchain approach to transferring data and rights will be far more straightforward and harder to thwart, enabling global security for the intellectual property rights within its purview.
3. Validating news
In another October announcement, Forbes Media LLC partnered with Civil, an Ethereum blockchain platform, to secure its news content. Civil's co-founder, Matt Coolidge, said the partnership is a milestone for blockchain journalism, while Forbes senior vice president Salah Zalatimo said it would bring unprecedented transparency to content.
The system may soon incorporate smart contracts that could potentially expand to facilitate the publication of content to other social media outlets, such as LinkedIn.
4. Replacing digital signatures
Digital signatures certify the authenticity of information, but their reliance on third-party trust -- distributed through costly certificates, adds an additional maintenance burden to the overhead of handling the documents and files themselves. And third-party trust is itself an area of uncertainty.
Blockchain meets this need by its very nature: Data integrity and confidence in authorship are built in -- with no third party required. This guarantees blockchain-wide application in information management.
5. Enhancing fact-checking
There are already numerous fact-checking sites on the internet offering ratings on what facts can or cannot be trusted -- but who rates the fact-checking sites themselves?
Trive News is a blockchain-based effort that crowdsources fact-checking in the manner of Wikipedia, rewarding contributors with cryptocurrency. News that passes through such a crowd-based gauntlet remains available, while news that fails doesn't. This style of information authentication is transparent and makes it hard for disinformation groups to perform successfully.
6. Authenticating content creators
Fake news comes from content creators who are out to misinform. Authenticating news, then, includes the authentication of those who create it.
Red Pen is a project dedicated to that mission, using CMS blockchain to assemble in ledger form those items of information that speak to an author's reputation for authenticity based on past work. Via Red Pen, a consumer of online news can validate a writer's bona fides. Mechanisms of this sort could be employed by any major social media platform with blockchain at its core.
7. Blockchaining social media
Steem is a blockchain-based social media network that takes an approach similar to Trive, offering financial incentives to content creators with the goal of crowdsourcing approval/disapproval. Providers of quality content are awarded tokens for good work -- which is tracked and delivered via CMS blockchain -- inspiring them to strive for ever-higher standards.
This system rapidly identifies and addresses bad actors. A similar system, broadly applied, could improve news quality wherever it is used, and the blockchain component is relatively simple.
8. Combating disinformation
Last spring, the European Commission included blockchain as part of its effort to fight the spread of online disinformation, according to a report issued by experts. One proposed tech solution included distributed blockchain ledger technology as a mechanism to validate information reliability and content integrity by enabling transparency and traceability of authorship.
9. Fixing Facebook
Then there's the granddaddy of all online news repositories: Facebook. It is the platform of choice for propagandists to publish fake articles and distribute misinformation worldwide due to its accessibility and lack of oversight. Though it recently stepped up its moderation in response to complaints that it may have affected the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the world's largest online community hasn't fixed reliability issues for its online news feed.
Jared Polites, a former FBI analyst writing for CNN, suggested blockchain fixes for Facebook including identity tracking. Fake news on Facebook typically comes from fake accounts; blockchain can offer identity transparency, making it impossible to steal someone else's identity and making it easier to spot purveyors of fake news acting across multiple accounts.