Messaging has been in the news a lot lately, and it's not just about chatbots and conversational commerce.
As we've explored in The Message and other outlets, the rise of private messaging — particularly over channels that are end-to-end encrypted like WhatsApp, iMessage and Telegram — comes with tradeoffs.
On the one hand, end-to-end encryption means private messaging conversations are, well, private, as messages are only visible to the parties sending and receiving them. That means not even the channel hosting the conversation can see read its content.
On the other hand, encrypted messaging makes it far more difficult for law enforcement, journalists and the chat platforms themselves to combat hate speech, harassment, illegal activity and the potentially dangerous spread of viral misinformation.
Over the past month or so, the chat platforms have faced mounting pressure to undermine end-to-end encryption by creating a backdoor for law enforcement.
But a growing number of organizations are tackling the challenge head on. And they’re doing it through messaging apps themselves.
Check mate ✅
Last week our partners at journalism non-profit Meedan launched a suite of tools for reporters to use during global elections, natural disasters and other time-sensitive events.
Called Check, Meedan’s platform uses Smooch to connect to the WhatsApp Business API so that citizens can submit photos and news stories via WhatsApp for journalists to verify or debunk.
The Smooch-Check integration was piloted during the Indian elections last spring. But with massive elections in Australia, Argentina, Canada and the U.S. expected in the coming year — and with access to all the world’s messaging channels via Smooch — the Check platform has the potential to tackle the problem of viral misinformation on a global scale.
Game on 🎮
Meanwhile, investigative journalism startup Point is trying to fight messaging-based misinformation — and raise funds — by creating its own video game.
On their Kickstarter page, Point’s Jay McGregor explains that “Misinformer” will be a “text-based detective style mobile game” in which the player has to “crack a major misinformation-based conspiracy before an upcoming election.”
Essentially, it’s a fictionalized version of Meedan’s Check platform – putting the player in the role of “citizen journalist.”
If the game is effective, it could teach people to think twice before sharing unverified information in real-world messaging apps.
New kid on the blockchain 🗞
The New York Times is also throwing its newsboy hat into the ring.
Led by The Times’ R&D team, The News Provenance Project aims to establish the authenticity of images by publishing the originals to a blockchain. The idea is to prove where an image originated from and whether it’s been edited along the way.
This isn’t the first attempt to “fix journalism” via blockchain, as Matthew Beedham points out in The Next Web. A similar initiative called Civil failed last year, despite being backed by respected media brands like Forbes.
You can read more about Check and Smooch's partnership with Meedan in this great article on Poynter.