Like other industries, the global media economy is being transformed by the border-less, friction-less world of the internet. Transcending both space and time to dramatically increase choice while reducing search and transaction costs, supporting explosive global growth of news, entertainment, and social media. With this increased variety of content sources comes an increase in the ambiguity of information sources, exposing people and institutions to cyber-defamation and fake news.
The startup Right of Reply (ROR) harnesses strong block chain technology to add a level transparency and a platform for verifiable responses to online media, opening new horizons for market and social engagement, managing information and reputation-capital. The ROR disruptive technologies can capture a large share of the existing reputation management business, while igniting new markets beyond the reach of traditional marketing and identify protection technologies.
Online media has transformed populations of consumers of traditional national and local media sources into a global population of pro-sumers who consume and produce content in real time, 24/7, irrespective of borders, identities or backgrounds, and in general creating a decentralization and ‘debranding’ of information sources. The production of media has been facilitated to the point where the act of consuming, with or without ‘liking’, has become in itself a production of potential value which is exchanged on the fluid and growing digital influence market. Whether for marketing or for political goals, this decentralization and automation is a double edged sword allowing spontaneous and “community-verified” information to flow freely but also providing a mechanism for malicious influences to generate fake news, fake communities and fake opinions. This system presents a new economic frontier where the attention of prosumers is the currency and the reputation of the “poster” be they a person or an institution, sets the exchange value. Emitting and exchanging this value in the form of items (stories, pictures, posts, likes, stars, shares, comments…) in the network should therefore be verified with the same rigor with which verify monetary transaction.
If reputation is the currency, protecting the value of personal and institutional reputations is vital. Several characteristics of online media in general, and social media in particular, make reputation management uniquely challenging. The first of these characteristics is the “train wreck” phenomenon in which negative, defamatory or salacious items attract more attention than positive items. The flow of attention online passes fleetingly onto an item that may or may not be true but is for some reason attention-worthy, click-worthy, share-worthy. If a negative story attracts more than a positive story it is also clear that a response to correct a negative story will also garner less attention.
As a wholly digital experience, online media is prone to programs or “bots” which can disseminate and endorse content automatically, creating self-fulfilling “like storms” or ‘hate-storms” on selected items. It is the nature of the instantaneous consumption of online media that favors these extremes of like and hate over more nuanced positions. A single negative post can be immediately amplified and is forever available, even after the swarm passes onto something else. A single item that degrades the reputation of a person or an institution can cancel a lifetime of positive activity. Recent studies on the dissemination of fake news items have shown that negative news travels more rapidly and more broadly than positive news and that humans share fake news more often than bots do.
Into this seemingly chaotic and dangerous context Right of Reply inserts a modern take on concept from British common Law, the individual Right of Reply. This principal of fairness allows anyone who has been defamed or about whom something has been claimed, to reply to that claim in the same venue and with the same instrument as the offender. In the online world the venue is the “post” and the reply should therefore have the same timeliness and weight as the original post. Because of the nature of commenting and the weighting of negative content as discussed above a corrective response to a post is likely to disappear. ROR works by first verifying the identity of the person cited in the original post and, as a consequence, reserves a response position for that person which is pinned to the original post. This allows the consumer of the post to immediately access the response of the cited party(ies). The Block Chain ledger is permanently affixed to the response to that item so that any future changes in the ledger will result in another alert on the ROR profile page of the cited person(s) or institution(s).
These micro media items form an economy of reputation value that must be managed. The ROR system is positioned to manage them technically with its ability to reduce the ambiguity of cited identities and the ability to manage micro-transactions which comes from its background in the block chain enabled platform space.