Fake Blockworks Site Illustrates the Need for Authenticated Media

BY Keisha Oleaga

October 30, 2023

Today’s digital age is rife with misinformation and elaborate online scams, and discerning the authenticity of content is more paramount than ever. With the proliferation of technology, instances of fake news and AI deepfakes can easily mislead millions within seconds.

On Friday (Oct. 27), Jason Yanowitz, co-founder of crypto news website Blockworks, took to X to warn followers of a scam that involved a cloned Blockworks website. According to Yanowitz, the scammers created a fake website that appeared identical to Blockworks, which led users to a fake story on a $37 million Uniswap exploit on the site’s top banner. Fortunately, the scam was quickly detected and did not financially impact any users due to errors in the phishing link.

The Blockworks incident is the latest in a slew of fake news and misinformation targeting consumers over the past year. Phishing schemes and online crypto scams are evolving daily, becoming increasingly intricate and sophisticated in their deception. Coupled with the ease of creating misinformation with AI tools and the rapid distribution inherent to social media platforms like X, the current climate poses a critical issue to digital publishers who have built their brands on reporting the truth.

However, the evolving world of authenticated media offers a promising solution to this widespread issue, heralding a future where content can be quickly and easily verified

What Is Authenticated Media?

At its core, authenticated media creates verifiable authenticity and on-chain provenance by assigning a unique digital identity, or a “token,” to a piece of content. This could be anything – an article, a video, a photograph, or an audio clip. Once tokenized, this content is minted onto the blockchain, a decentralized digital ledger enabling transparency and immutability. This means that every piece of tokenized media comes with undeniable proof of its origin and history. In a nutshell, the digital trail offers users an ultimate source of truth in determining whether a piece of content was published by the source it claims to be from.

Combating Scams and Misinformation

The incidents involving Blockworks and AI misinformation illustrate the pressing need for a system that can easily and immediately verify the authenticity of digital content. With authenticated media, the verification process is streamlined:

  • Proof of Origin: Every authenticated content piece carries a unique identifier that proves its source. While scammers can spoof a publication’s website, they cannot fool the blockchain. When in doubt, users can reference the content authenticated by a publication’s official wallet to determine precisely what it published.
  • Transparent Edit History: Authenticated media can record both the creation of content and any subsequent changes made to it. As well as helping readers determine whether a piece of content has been digitally manipulated, this feature promotes trust and transparency by creating a trustless reference point to track changes to pieces of content. Consumers are currently reliant on in-house editor’s notes and third-party trackers, such as Editing the Gray Lady, an X account that records changes to news articles on The New York Times website.
  • Wider Accessibility: As authenticated media becomes mainstream, users will have simple tools to quickly verify the content they consume. Similarly to how the “blue check” verification badge became the social media standard in the era before it could be bought, this can shift consumer behavior with time and adoption, promoting a culture of routine verification and skepticism towards unauthenticated content.

At now media, we are integrating authenticated media into our workflow to lead the charge in establishing this industry standard across digital publishing. Since the initial announcement on Oct. 10, we have been authenticating articles daily using our proprietary web3 CMS Sovereignty. These can be identified and verified through the “Verified On-Chain” badge at the top of each piece, which contains the tokenized article’s official IPFS link. Each authenticated article can currently be tracked on-chain via Etherscan and viewed on platforms like OpenSea.

This process provides users with a transparent and unalterable record of the article’s publication, offering a digital certificate of authenticity and ensuring readers that the content they are consuming was published by the source it claims to be from and has not been tampered with or misrepresented.

One of the most powerful aspects of authenticated media is its potential to place power back into the hands of the consumers. As users become accustomed to authenticated content and infrastructure evolves to make verification simple and routine, they can make more informed decisions and judgments. It’s akin to having a digital seal of approval; just as one would trust a certification label on a product, authenticated content reassures its audience of its authenticity.

Challenges Ahead

While the advantages are many, implementing authenticated media isn’t without its challenges. There’s the task of integrating blockchain technology into current media publishing platforms and the larger hurdle of public education. Readers and viewers must be made aware of the importance of seeking out authenticated content and how to verify it. None of this will happen overnight, but significant strides are already being made.

As the lines between truth and falsehood continue to blur with the growth of AI misinformation and increasingly sophisticated online scams, authenticated media is not just beneficial — it is essential. By arming digital publishers with trustless mechanisms to safeguard the truth, the industry can help prevent malicious actors from misleading consumers at a time when content can no longer be taken at face value.

Additional contributions by Matt Medved.

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