Adblock is one of the most popular browser extensions in the world and most tech-savvy regular internet browsers will either use it or have used it in the past. If you haven’t and are not one of the rare fans of pop-up advertising, give it a whirl! Less well-known is the company behind Adblock – eyeo.
The company’s latest extension, described as a non-commercial ‘passion project’ is a beta version of a ‘trust badge’ for news publishers. The ‘fake news’ maelstrom has rarely been out of the media over the past year or two, the term kept in vogue by US president Donald Trump’s regular use of it. Trump’s personal classification of journalism as ‘fake news’ strikes as more of a go-to slur of any article or media he is involved in a personal vendetta with.
Nonetheless, few would argue that the veracity of facts, vested interest or bias and quality of content labelled ‘news’ is not a burning issue in the current digital age. While the internet has gone a long way towards democratising information, which can be considered a good thing, the negative side-effect of barriers to entry dropping has been the proliferation of biased and inaccurate information, sometimes with malicious intent.
Eyeo’s fake news extension is currently available for Chrome in beta version and called ‘Trusted News’. It displays one of several symbols when a user’s browser has opened a news source. A green checkmark denotes a trusted news source, an orange checkmark one considered to be biased and there are further symbols for ‘untrustworthy’, ‘satire’, ‘clickbait’, ‘user generated’ and ‘malicious’. During the beta period Trued News is relying on third-party opinions on publishers provided by Wikipedia, PolitiFact, Snopes and Zimdars’ List.
The full version of the extension will use the latest technology in the world of Blockchain to incorporate user feedback. Eyeo is working on its blockchain solution, which will be built on the Ethereum platform, with anti-fraud URL registry organisation MetaCert Protocol. Gamification will be used to encourage user feedback, with a cryptocurrency tokens reward scheme incentivising valuable user input.
Eyeo’s director of ecosystems, Ben Williams, was at pains to emphasise that the company will not seek to monetise the Trusted News extension in any way, either now or in the future. Moving it onto Blockchain technology is seen as the way to build the extension and then hand it over to the general public in a decentralised way that is free of any potential accusation of vested interests. The company’s Adblock extension has been accused of representing an ‘advertiser mafia’ as companies can pay to be included in a ‘white list’ of non-intrusive ad publishers.
Williams commented for TechCrunch:
“I want to stress, this is a first, humble attempt — this is a beta — we want to see how this goes. We want people to give us honest feedback on it. And we want to improve upon that. So it’s not merely a matter of where the labels are. But also is this what people want? We think it’s a good idea but it is, again, just a start.”