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Blockchain Technology For Verifying Election Data

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Blockchain Technology For Verifying Election Data

Rachel Wolfson

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| 6 min read

FOX

Source: Pixabay

More than 60 countries around the world will hold national and regional elections this year, making 2024 the biggest election year in history. But there are growing concerns that misinformation and disinformation driven largely by artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the elections.

An example of this recently occurred when an AI-enabled call using United States President Joe Biden’s voice phoned thousands of people across the U.S.

Findings from The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024 further show that misinformation and disinformation are likely to be a top global risk in the next two years.

The report states that “foreign and domestic actors alike will leverage misinformation and disinformation to widen societal and political divides.”

The report also noted this risk will be even greater given that there will bea large number of elections in the near future, as more than 3 billion people are due to head to the polls in 2024 and 2025.

Blockchain Leveraged for Data Verification


While misleading information poses a major global threat, industry experts have pointed out that blockchain technology can play an important role in combating this challenge.

Paul Brody, Global Blockchain Lead for Ernst & Young (EY), told Cryptonews that like many people, he believes this year could break records for fake news.

Given this, Brody explained that EY has created a blockchain-based traceability solution called “OpsChain” that performs document notarization through a set of APIs.

“OpsChain runs on top of Ethereum public infrastructure,” Brody said. “The solution hashes and time stamps documents, placing that information on the blockchain for verification.”

 

Brody shared that OpsChain is currently being leveraged by ANSA, an Italian news agency that generates over 1 million articles a year. According to an EY blog post, when an editor publishes a news story on ANSA, it’s fed into the OpsChain system with an ID and publication details. All of this information is stored as an immutable block on Ethereum.

When a story is published online, it includes an “ANSACheck” sticker, which allows readers to see who has written the article and if it has been republished.

“Readers can take the full text from an article on ANSA and verify that it’s original,” said Brody.

This is important, as Brody added that this same process can be applied to election data.

“When putting data into a public ecosystem you want it to be verifiably independent from other parties. EY’s goal is to make this easy to do by using APIs,” he said. “This allows any entity to create timestamps for data on the Ethereum blockchain. All transactions are confirmed within 15 seconds of execution.” .

Cryptography’s Role for Verifying Data


David Sneider, Co-Founder of Lit Protocol, told Cryptonews that cryptographic signatures can also be used to verify data.

Sneider explained that Lit Protocol, a distributed key management network, does this by leveraging “multi-party computation (MPC) threshold secret schemes” to cryptographically sign documents and other items.

“‘Multi-party computation (MPC) threshold secret schemes’ essentially means taking key material and splitting it into different parts so that no centralized custodian has access,” said Sneider. “In the case of Lit Protocol, 20 out of 30 node operators can generate authorization to use the underlying key to sign something for data verification.”

Sneider explained that Lit Protocol’s partners that use the technology are known as “issuers,” as they have access to the decentralized key. These issuers can then create verifiable credentials, or proof, that data is accurate.

“One of our ecosystem partners is using Lit Protocol to cryptographically say that a cryptocurrency address is associated with a particular Twitter account,” Sneider remarked.

In addition, Stanford University’s Starling Lab for Data Integrity applies Lit Protocol to journalism for data verification and privacy.

“Journalists in censor prone areas can privately and anonymously publish media content in places where the Internet is restricted,” said Sneider.

While this solution is not being applied to election data, Sneider pointed out that it can be used to ensure that publications or videos originated from election candidates or government officials.

Interestingly, the White House Special Advisor for AI, Ben Buchanan, recently stated that U.S. government officials are exploring cryptographic verification methods to combat deep fakes.

Moreover, Sneider mentioned that blockchain can be applied to cryptographic signing to serve as a timestamp as to when data was actually verified.

“A blockchain is a global clock that lets us create a timestamp and proof when certain content, for example, was published,” he said.

Digital Fingerprinting for Data Verification


While blockchain and cryptography offer immutable verification of data, other emerging technologies are also stepping in to combat misinformation. Digital fingerprinting has arisen as one such solution that can be combined with blockchain tech, providing a way to distinctly identify and authenticate content. As elections approach, these methods could prove pivotal in upholding data integrity across organizations and media.

Mariale Montenegro, Founder and CEO of Mentaport, told Cryptonews that Mentaport is using such technology to ensure data verification. According to Montenegro, Mentaport uses digital fingerprinting technology to embed a unique identifier within the metadata of content.

“This identifier is securely linked to the blockchain, creating an unalterable certificate that authenticates the content’s origin, ownership, and authenticity,” said Montenegro.

Although Mentaport is still in its private beta stage, Montenegro explained that a news organization could use the solution to verify content.

“Before publication, the content is submitted to Mentaport’s platform, where it is analyzed and certified as authentic,” she said. “The certification, along with the content’s metadata, is then recorded on the blockchain.”

Once data is placed on the blockchain, Montenegro explained that readers can verify the authenticity of content through Mentaport, as everything placed on the blockchain is transparent and open.

While the same may be applied to election-generated content, Montenegro explained that the decision to move from private beta to a broader launch will be based on ensuring that the technology not only meets, but exceeds the expectations of current users and stakeholders.

Will Government Agencies Leverage Blockchain Solutions?


While the potential for blockchain-based solutions is apparent, the question remains if government agencies involved with upcoming elections would want to leverage this technology.

“The main obstacle we face today is that government agencies, especially election organizations, are not up for embracing state of the art technology,” said Brody.

Although Brody mentioned that it’s reasonable to be hesitant with new technology, he pointed out that he hopes to see more adoption this year due to the growing amount of false information.

Sneider added that while there is an interest in cryptographic verification from the White House, standards still need to be developed.

According to Sneider, this is currently underway as he shared that The Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA) is implementing standards as it relates to authenticity and provenance.

“In the coming months this will be more consumable by creators and publishers,” he said.

Yet even with standards in place, Sneider believes that another challenge will arise once it becomes commonplace for documents to be cryptographically signed for verification.

“If everything that is published is cryptographically signed, a question could arise that just because data is signed, does it mean it’s authentic? Someone would have to check who signed the data and where the cryptographic key lives,” said Sneider.

Moreover, while blockchain verification processes are efficient, the technology isn’t always easy to use. Brody pointed out that this is why EY currently leverages an API model.

“OpsChain has actually been around for years, but EY recently moved to an all API model to make it easy for others to adopt and test,” he said.

Sneider said Fox Corporation also uses Lit Protocol’s verification process and authenticity check.

It has also been reported that Fox has partnered with Polygon Labs to to use Verify, which is an open source platform designed to verify the authenticity of content and track its use across the web.

Sneider believes that in the future similar methods will be adopted throughout various corporations and products.

“If we end up in a world with more generative fakes, this model will be part of the browsing experience,” he said. “Websites will show the source of content in their feeds, rather than having individuals visit an entirely different website to see the verification.”

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