Developing an Intelligent Source Authenticity System to Combat Fake News

Project: Research

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Fake news and rumors have long plagued social media users. Users who are unsuspecting of questionable social media posts may forward them to peers in their social media communities, who may in turn reshare it to their own communities,exacerbating the viral spread of fake news and rumors. The core problem here is how to thwart the chain of fake news circulation. Previous research shows inconsistent effectiveness of IT artifacts in solving the problem. One factor likely to have been overlooked in previous research is source authenticity. If news originates from reliable sources, it can increase trustworthiness; otherwise, it increases suspicion. We can use IT artifacts to alert social media users to suspicious sources of messages and increase users’ hesitance to reshare potential fake news. To fully address this problem, we present this research proposal to use a design-science approach to develop a message source authentication system with the help of non-fungible token (NFT) technologies. We call this system “Authenticity NFT.” NFT has several unique advantages. First, it uniquely represents an original piece of literary work. The decentralized technology is tamperproofand can effectively deter forgery. Second, NFT facilitates ownership verification and makes false claims to authorship of an original message impossible. Third, NFT allows for source tracing and facilitates the identification of original source of information. With the Authenticity NFT system, we aim to answer two broad research questions: (1) How does the source authenticity of social media posts make users more aware of potential fake news? (2) Can source authentication system thwart the chain of circulation of fake news on social media? We answer these questions using a controlled laboratory experiment and a field experiment. In the control experiment, we test whether social media users pay attention to source authenticity when they encounter new social media posts. In particular, we are interested in examining whether the absence of an NFT icon in some posts raises users’ suspicion of possible fake news. In the field experiment, we plan to deploy Authenticity NFT to a social media site and observe its effect on curbing fake news circulation over time. We plan to use a difference-indifference approach to examine the treatment effect of Authenticity NFT in thwarting the chain of fake news circulation. This research has important implications for both research and practice in combating fake news.


Project number9043445
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/23 → …