Here are four start-ups from around the world putting truth-seeking at the heart of their purpose to tackle problems from fake news to ad fraud.

Cambridge Analytica, Russian bots, WannaCry virus, corporate data breaches... it’s no wonder that our faith in technology has plummeted in recent times. But thanks to advances in emerging data technologies such as blockchain and machine learning, a more transparent world may be possible. We find out what the experts have to say.

Dr Abdullah Albeyatti, CEO, Medicalchain (London)

Medicalchain is a platform for storing and using electronic health records, fuelled by blockchain technology

"I work as a GP and I’m frustrated at our inability to give the best level of care due to the limited information we have on patients. All of the data I rely upon is on the GP practice’s system. If one of my patients goes to a hospital and has a blood test or scan, I’ll have no idea what the results will be. That can lead to a misdiagnosis or mismanagement.

This is a long-standing problem, not just in the NHS but worldwide. Every family doctor or hospital has its own silo of information about someone’s records and results. We’ve tried to remove these barriers in the past. The government brought in a new IT system to share patient records between NHS services but it failed because it was simply too hard to get everyone working with the same technology.

At Medicalchain, we’re taking a completely different approach. You can’t have a consultation without a patient, so why don’t we trust the patient to bring their records with them? You’ve got email, photos and banking on your phone, so why not health records too? Patients can access them via a mobile, or we can log in on a web browser using their specific keys. If I give them medication or get results, that all gets added to their records using blockchain technology.

We’re trying to promote patients having access to their records for free. I want any patient to be able to request us to get their records off their doctor and put it into their Medicalchain health passport. We have our own cryptocurrency called MedTokens. If a patient decides to have a telemedicine consultation, they will be able to pay the doctor in MedTokens, from which we’ll take a small cut. Likewise, if a patient agrees to share their data with the research department of a pharmaceutical company, they can request payment in MedTokens."
 

Jarrod Dicker, CEO at Po.et

Jarrod Dicker, CEO, Po.et (Nashville, Tennessee)

Po.et is a platform that builds the reputation of writers and journalists by helping their work to be discovered, while also protecting their intellectual property

"Media is being more widely consumed than ever, but its business health check is looking somewhat grim. The world needs to be convinced that content is valuable again. Po.et reclaims value for content creators, publishers and consumers.

Po.et is easily hooked into content- management systems, so when you create something and press publish, your content is saved on the blockchain. It’s timestamped with your byline and can’t be deleted. Think of it like the future archive.

Once the content is on Po.et, its creator has the right to set a price or license it, thanks to smart contracts. For a Washington Post or New York Times this might be a chance to rethink circulation and licensing, while for independent creators, which is 90% of us, it hands them the tools for ownership as well as licensing. Po.et is maintained by a decentralised community of users. To build your reputation you need to stake Po.et tokens against your work and make what we call “claims”.

There are thousands of people incentivised to go in there and fact-check your work. If you’re lying or passing off someone else’s work as your own, you are booted from the marketplace, and whoever boots you out gets your tokens. Po.et is currently for text content but we’re planning for audio and video as well.

Think about what’s happening with Deepfakes [face-swapping technology]. Today we talk about fake news in terms of perception, but soon people aren’t going to be able to tell with their own eyes what’s fake. I want to make sure Po.et is prepared to solve big issues in media as they happen."

Frideric Prandecki, CEO and Co- founder, Bob’s Repair (Las Vegas)

Bob’s Repair is on a mission to make home repairs cheaper by bringing price transparency to customers

"Home repairs is a $400 billion industry in the US, and yet nobody knows how much things should cost. Price gouging is happening on many levels – big companies, small companies and independent contractors. When you call for a repair you get asked what zip code you are in – if you’re in a more expensive area, all of a sudden you’re paying more. There are also a lot of fake reviews published on review sites that are never taken down.

With our blockchain solution you can put everything on an open public ledger so that everyone can see what’s really going on in the home-repairs space. After the job is done, the client writes down how much they paid for the labour, the parts and total costs. They rate the contractor and it’s all stored on the blockchain, where it can never be removed or tampered with.

If a consumer wants to hire a handyman and goes on bobsrepair.com, they’ll type in their zip code and see thousands of contractors. If any of these have ever overcharged or done a bad job, it’s going to be there for people to see. Some contractors’ higher fees might be justified by their good reviews. The consumer can make an informed decision.

We ensure the reviews are real by using a customer-verification process. Both the contractors and consumers will upload their IDs. The contractor can leave a review of the consumer as well. Consumers pay by credit card and those funds are transferred into Bobtokens [the platform currency] in a lending pool. The consumer sets milestones for the contractor and releases the funds as they are achieved."
 

Anant Joshi, Chief Revenue Officer at Factmata

Anant Joshi, Chief Revenue Officer, Factmata (London)

Factmata is a London-based AI start- up that looks for misinformation on the web – fake news, extreme political bias, hate speech and clickbait

"There are vocal groups out there who might call for a boycott of a brand if they see it appear alongside inappropriate content, with brands potentially facing a social media disaster. We’ve built machine- learning algorithms that can read and understand text, rather than simply finding key words.
Once we’ve scanned the articles, we give them a score. We can then sell that information to brands to help prevent their ads from appearing against that inappropriate content. Brand safety is a big concern currently with marketeers. The big social networks are heavily investing in safety and we’re looking beyond them, at the internet in general.

We’re also addressing media agencies and the digital ad-buying ecosystem. We want to start to defund inappropriate sites that are getting money from the large advertisers. In a lot of cases, advertisers don’t know where they’ve been running their ads. Once offending domains or URLs are identified, we can remove them from the inventory of sites on which advertisers can buy ads.

We’re also building a product called Briefr, which is aimed at journalists. If you’re a specialist in climate science and something in an article doesn’t look right, you can annotate the sentence, post to Briefr and start a discussion thread around it with other journalists. Once articles have been classified and tagged, all that data will then be fed into the algorithm to help it learn better what’s trustworthy and what isn’t.

Once we’ve scored the articles, we let the client decide if they want to remove that specific page URL or domain from buying advertising [space] in the future."

Want to read more about the businesses putting technology at the heart of their growth plans? Head to workspace.co.uk/community/homework/technology