Here’s a sketch of an idea that could be used to implement a news trust system on the web. (This is apropos of Mozilla’s Information Trust Initiative, announced last year.)

Suppose we used public key crypto (digital badges?) to make some verifiable assertions about an online news item:

  • person X wrote the headline / article
  • news organization Y published the headline / article
  • person X is a credentialed journalist (degreed or affiliated with a news organization)
  • news organization Y is a credentialed media organization (not sure how to define this)
  • the headline / article has not been altered from its published form

The article could include a meta tag in the page’s header that links to a .well-known/news-trust file at a stable URL, and that file could then include everything needed to verify the assertions.

If this information were available to social media feeds / news aggregators, then it’d be easy to:

  • automatically calculate the trustworthiness of shared news items at internet scale
  • inform users which items are trustworthy (for example, show a colored border around the item)
  • factor trustworthiness into news feed algorithms (allow users to hide or show lower-scored items, based on user settings)

One unsolved issue here is who issues the digital credentials for media. I need to look into this.

What do you think? Is this a good idea, a silly idea, something that’s been done before?

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