Userfeeds - Challenging Fake News and Changing the Landscape of Digital Content
While Facebook scramble and struggle to deal with the fake news issue, fending off angry governments, standard agencies and pressure groups as they do, other people are attempting to take on the issue in interesting ways. A startup called Userfeeds is the latest, and they may well have made a significant step in the right direction using one very powerful method - money.

Based in Warsaw, the company have already pulled in $800,000 of seed funding, and they're using it to change the way content ranking functions. Currently, ranking is misshapen, it's been warped by algorithms, which can be manipulated by bots, like farmers and, yes, fake news sites. Userfeed are trying to change that, by employing the same mindset which was used to create Bitcoin.

They're doing this by opening up a path to the content in the Blockchain so that it can be audited based on quality, rather than some arbitrary, falsified impression of popularity. It will, in theory, allow publishers and users alike to create custom rankings for search results by using 'digital tokens'. This system effectively creates a barrier which bots and other inorganic systems can't breach.

So, in essence, users will have these 'reputation tokens' which are only used to rank content, and they'll get more valuable the more attention they attract. It's like taking out stock, but instead of the projected monetary value of the company being the driving force, it's how interesting and engaging the content is. If you back something which other people then also back, you'll see a return on investment.

It's a fascinating idea, one which if done right could completely retool the way online business models function. Advertising would no longer be the main source of profit, nor would subscription fees, both of which are becoming increasingly problematic. The most important thing though? It would render likes, shares and comments almost entirely redundant.

There's probably a means of abuse buried in there somewhere; no system is perfect, but as a concept there's a huge amount of potential here. If the value of content was assessed proportionately to the application or platform it appeared on, it would be far easier to tell who was providing legitimately interesting material and who was spamming, click-baiting, or any grotesque cocktail of the two.

Beyond this, it will also give publishers more of an incentive to think creatively - backers losing interest means dropping down the ranking which in turn means losing money. The internet is currently sort of like a seller's market masquerading as a buyer's market. This (once again, if done right), would turn it into an actual buyers market.

Userfeeds was set up by a former Google employee and a metadata software engineer. Their first app, Userfeeds Engine, is currently in development. For more detailed information on how it's going to work, head here.

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