Amid the global pandemic crisis, the importance of ensuring trusted information is getting more crucial as fake coronavirus news poses a direct threat to life and health of people worldwide.

While some global jurisdictions are imposing fines and imprisonment for spreading false coronavirus information, a major news agency in Italy is hoping to stop fake news by implementing blockchain technology.

All the news that’s fit to hash

ANSA, Italy’s main news agency and an international publication owned by 24 national newspapers, has launched a news tracking system based on blockchain to bring more trust between the company and its readers. Called ANSAcheck, the blockchain-powered tool purportedly allows users to verify the origin and history of news published on its platforms, its affiliated publications as well as third parties such as social media or other platforms, ANSA announced on April 6.

Additionally, the technology implementation allows ANSA to keep track of its content use and link ecosystem actors, publishers and web agencies, the firm said.

ANSA readers can verify articles with blockchain by clicking on a special label

According to the announcement, the system was developed in collaboration with Big Four accounting firm Ernst & Young. Specifically, the system provides a news article with a tracking label “Notizia d'origine certificata” (“News of Certified Origin”). The label links a news piece to a page containing details like date and time of recording or publishing the article, registered blocks for relevant events, as well as links to relevant blockchain transactions on blockchain browser Etherscan.

Blockchain news verification system by ANSA agency. Source: ANSAcheck

ANSAcheck is based on Ethereum

According to a local ANSA report, the ANSAcheck system is based on Ernst & Young’s proprietary EY Ops Chain Traceability solution, which is based on the Ethereum blockchain. Particularly, the platform is implementing smart contract technology by linking a news article to a digital representation and creating a specific cryptographic string, ANSA noted.

As previously announced, EY Ops Chain was launched in April 2017 in order to enable enterprises to represent their operations on a blockchain using digital tokens and smart contracts.

Stefano de Alessandri, CEO at ANSA, outlined that the news agency has become aware of frequent fraudulent use of ANSA brand to provide false information. The executive noted that ANSA is the first agency to implement the tech to tackle the problem:

"We are therefore particularly proud to be the first to launch a highly innovative project, carried out for all our readers and the clients of the Agency [...] Starting today, we can track the origin of the news and - at the same time - support the professionalism of our journalists.”

Cointelegraph reached out to ANSA for additional information and will update if we hear back.

In mid-March, Cointelegraph reported on the Argentine government’s website suffering a major hack that enabled attackers to spread fake coronavirus-related news.

Adrian Zmudzinski contributed reporting for this story.