Decentralised Verification Technologies and the Web

Third, Allan and Domingue, John (2021). Decentralised Verification Technologies and the Web. In: Grech, Alex ed. Media, Technology and Education in a Post-Truth Society. Digital Activism and Society: Politics, Economy and Culture in Network Communication. Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 255–269.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-80043-906-120211018

URL: http://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-80043-906-120211018

Abstract

The Internet, the Web and social media have radically transformed a number of core pillars of our social fabric. The way billions of citizens work, interact and socialise is underpinned by our global network infrastructure. Unfortunately, we have also seen a number of negative effects from this transformation. As has been widely publicised, undesirable impacts include the spread of disinformation and fake news; attacks on democratic elections and the ‘weaponisation’ of personal data. This article describes some of the technological approaches that are being taken to address some of the above issues. At the core of these technologies are notions around decentralisation. With blockchains it is possible that citizens can create their own ‘self-sovereign’ identity – the digital equivalent of writing one's name onto a piece of paper – and acquiring verification through blockchain-based techniques. An approach to alleviating the ‘weaponisation’ of personal and sensitive data is to give citizens their own data store. Initiatives such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee's Solid allow users to store, manage and control their own data according to any personal preferences or constraints. We believe that a combination of personal data stores and blockchains will lead to a new type of resilient communication and collaboration mechanism, whereby personal rights and empowerment are enhanced and transparency at the community level is integral.

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