San Francisco-based Dirt Protocol has raised $3 million in funding to build a blockchain platform that challenges fake news. Photo: iStock

In an age when social media has become the dominant source of news and information for so many, fake news has become a scourge of the internet.

The team at San Francisco start-up Dirt Protocol is working on a new blockchain-based approach to verify information that will filter out fake news and misinformation.

The company, founded by 29-year-old “serial entrepreneur” – and Stamford dropout – Yin Wu, plans to launch the platform later this year. It has acquired $3 million in funding from General Catalyst, Greylock, Lightspeed, Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, SV Angel, Avichal Garg, Elad Gil, Fred Ehrsam, Linda Xie and a number of others.

According to a recent Techcrunch interview, Wu became concerned over the FOMO – fear of missing out – and FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt – around initial coin offerings. Her platform aims to filter out the deception by verifying information using blockchain. “The market today is still unregulated, with high incentive for people to spread misinformation for personal gain,” she said.

The Dirt Protocol will provide the tools for developers to build their own databases rather than supply the information itself. The system is underpinned by token-based information registries. Tokens are staked in order to submit information for verification, to challenge an entry or to vote in the case of a disputes. There will be penalties, by way of token loss, for misinformation and also rewards, token gains, for weeding out misinformation.

The system will support a variety of “governance structures,” such as centralized moderation, free-for-all voting and a system where votes are weighted by reputation. Dirt Protocol is also designed to prevent misinformation campaigns by increasing the contribution costs for more popular databases that are more attractive targets for hoaxers.

This model will set it apart from regular social media platforms that, by allowing users to comment freely, help spread fake news and misinformation campaigns. The likes of Facebook and Twitter do nothing to prevent users posting scams and spam all over their platforms, although they have taken what many have seen as the rather counter-productive step of censoring crypto advertising.

Dirt has no plans to monetize its platform and the business model is likely to involve a combination of giving the software away for free and charging for additional services. “We’re focused on creating this open data set that anyone can use. If we achieve that goal, I’m confident that some monetization will arise,” added Wu.

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