Blockchain, the vigilante of online content authenticity standards

With computational photography and post-production software creating a crisis of trust in the media, blockchain as a night watchman for content traceability and authenticity standards will block the chaos caused by falsehoods and tampering. However, who will organize this powerful army of vigilantes?

Social platforms and information sites are full of images from unknown sources that invite speculation, and the curious will spend a lot of time arguing in the comment section. This is probably a situation that platforms and content creators are happy to see. More people involved in the discussion means a sense of “conversation” and active “engagement”. Unfortunately, some of the less credible images undermine the community atmosphere and the credibility of the platform, and also waste the time and energy of content consumers, preventing them from making rational judgments and decisions.

On June 2, the Washington Post joined an organization called CAI (The Content Authenticity Initiative), and on May 13, Twitter joined a coalition called C2PA (The Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity). To the outside world, this seemed like a tiny move by the company, not worth mentioning at all. But from this moment on, thanks to CAI, C2PA and blockchain technology, perhaps the online media industry and social platforms are about to undergo a major reshuffle.

Note the small “i” icon in the upper right corner of the picture
Large foreign social media platforms and information sites have been noticing the emergence of fake news and fake news on their websites since early on. During the 2016 US elections, fake news on social media platforms reached an all-time high. The term “media manipulation” has also become a buzzword in the news these days.

In the 2020 U.S. election, a startup called Numbers Protocol came up with a new idea for a special partnership with Reuters, using blockchain technology to provide photo traceability. The photo appeared in a special page called “78Days”, and a small “i” icon appeared on the photo, which, when clicked, brought up a brand new page showing the historical version of the photo and what changes were made by the editor. The icon will bring up a whole new page that shows the history of the photo and what kind of changes the editor has made. Anyone can click on this little icon to see the original image and copyright information behind the news image. Each action inside the little “i” icon has a unique id or hash value.

Blockchain, the vigilante of online content authenticity standards

Image from: 78Days public domain

The decision to bring the little “i” icon into the mainstream media was made by the more familiar software giant, Adobe.

Strife, started by Adobe
Adobe was founded in 1982, is the world’s leading provider of digital media and online marketing solutions, with its own strength, to create a new world of image post. Among the many software products, especially Photoshop is the most well-known. In China, there is even a special word “P” to refer to the post-processing of images.

The content of the picture is tampered with, more for the creative needs of advertising. However, since its birth, Adobe has laid a mine for news image content.

In the early days of paper media and the Internet, the news industry had no more and no less demand for images. And the rise of the self-media platform, in the world of various forms of news content well, to the creation of pictures has brought a huge opportunity. Comparing a story in the paper era with a self-published article, the former may only need one or two illustrations, while the latter needs to insert pictures every 2-3 paragraphs. If not, a story would be considered “boring”.

Content consumers are eager to see stories that are well illustrated. At the same time, some creative images (including modeme images) to further enhance the readability of the story article. At this time, Adobe went along with the new demand to amplify countless times, and thus created their own giant status in the field of image software.

On the side of content creators, in their quest for creativity, some content producers who wanted to gain eyeballs deliberately tampered with elements in the images, leading to distortion of news images and information. Strife, thus, opened.

Media Trust Crisis
In the opinion of serious journalists, news pictures must be marked with the time, place, photographer and copyright owner, which are collectively referred to as the provenance of news pictures. But with the rise of new media platforms, these rules have all disappeared, and everyone can express their opinions on information platforms and social networking sites, and there are more and more “three-nothing pictures” in online reports, and even serious news have abandoned their previous rigor and used or directly quoted pictures from unknown sources.

This can be disappointing. Although people trust the old media, the use of unknown images is inevitably detrimental to the authenticity of news reporting.

Outside the realm of serious news, the popular entertainment section is even more varied, completely unleashing the potential of photo editing software. The spoofing of pics of entertainment stars and public figures has become one of the triggers of online strife. The random use of images to compile stories has become a source of traffic for new media. In the early days of the Chinese Internet, relying on exaggerated headlines and pictures of unknown authenticity, some well-known websites got a taste of the sweetness and gained huge traffic.

Blockchain, the vigilante of online content authenticity standards

Image from: Project Origin public information

When people discovered that using post-processing software could make people look more aesthetically pleasing to the public, photo post-processing software started its second journey. This time, the image processing software, led by Meituxiu, has brought the “beauty economy” to everyone.

Beauty filters, in line with human nature, but against the principle of authenticity
Behind the beauty filter is “artificial intelligence” and “algorithm” in support. The use of different algorithms, appear in the picture is a different face. A small change in the face and skin has become the “wealth code” of the mobile Internet: the main fashion camera phone, a variety of beauty filters to support social software, professional beauty software.

After a rough face is “rubbed” by the algorithm, it becomes delicate and attractive. This is very human. But unfortunately, beauty filters are used by online scammers to grow the scale of “online scams”. The pixel-grade beauty is the best tool for scammers to cheat, and with those social software that are not strictly audited, they have harvested countless netizens who are passionate about making friends late at night.

If in the age of self-publishing, people are only interested in the pleasure of reading and no longer interested in serious reporting, then when they decide to embrace beauty software, they also reject the epiphany about the real and the unreal. The progress of the development of our “beauty skin technology” (later known as artificial intelligence beauty and computational photography), far exceeded people’s imagination, people believe that the future of cell phone camera, in computational photography.

The destruction of authenticity by computational photography
Global cell phone manufacturers are boasting of their huge investment and achievements in computational photography. Dark light imaging, super moon, one-touch keying, etc., higher pixel camera and more powerful computational photography features, forever tormenting the computing power of a new generation of cell phone processors. People can spend huge efforts on image processing, but most likely ignore the instinct of cell phone camera to record the real.

With the easy click of a shot button, computational photography can take your photos to a whole new level of artistry and create a highly creative photo without a lot of effort. The success of computational photography has influenced the fate of cell phone manufacturers in the future.

Imaging engineers have gone crazy with the destruction of reality, not to mention the fact that someone is already working on mobile-based Deepfake face-swapping technology (with good results already). These photos, from the accompanying EXIF information looks unbroken, but the photo content may have nothing to do with the real scene.

In general, the photo EXIF information can be seen on the real time and address, but how to judge the authenticity of the content of such photos and the EXIF information does not match it? Considering the real shooting environment, how can we explain that on a foggy night, the cell phone captured a clear picture of the moon’s surface, while other professional cameras in the area at the same time could not get such a picture?

What we have long relied on as “realistic cell phone photography” is no longer “seeing is believing”. The word “real” may be tainted by language.

As cell phones win the challenge of professional cameras, more of them will reach or replace them in the future. This is no longer a speculation, with the “1-inch large base” has become popular, the imagination is becoming a reality.

CAI, Project Origin and C2PA
At the beginning of the article, we mentioned that Twitter joined C2PA, that is, The Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (content traceability and authenticity coalition). C2PA is an open technology standard that will provide publishers, creators and consumers with the ability to track different types of media sources, with the goal of solving the long-standing problem of online content authenticity on the Internet by tracing and verifying the authenticity of content on the Internet. Now, C2PA is working to develop a common content trustworthiness standard for the Internet.

C2PA consists of two entity organizations: the CAI initiative led by Adobe (Content Authenticity Initiative, initiated by Adobe and Twitter, founded in 2019, released its initiative white paper in 2020, and already includes Adobe, Qualcomm, ARM, Twitter and more than a dozen of the world’s leading software, hardware, and (including Adobe, Qualcomm, ARM, Twitter and more than a dozen of the world’s leading software, hardware, social media and media companies to join, and also openly recruit members who agree with this initiative); and Microsoft-led Project Origin (proposed in 2020, the current progress is slow, but the idea is clear enough). These two organizations share a common vision of providing trustworthy verification services for online media content on the Internet, making information more transparent and authentic, and reducing the misleading effect of false content on content consumers.

C2PA has made the authenticity of all online content its goal, but the current mission is to start with image content. From the perspective of image content editing and verification, the strife started by Adobe is likely to be ended by C2PA, which is, of course, a hope that Adobe is desperately trying to nurture. The bell must be untied.

Blockchain, the night watchman of online content authenticity standard
Under the call of Adobe, software and hardware companies, chip R&D companies and media groups join CAI, the opportunity is actually a small startup company Truepic’s blockchain product. This small company was also one of the first six initiators of CAI. Truepic uses blockchain technology to ensure the integrity of photo data and provide verification services. Not too early and not too late, blockchain technology has found the perfect application scenario: blockchain cameras. The content industry is poised for massive change.

Blockchain technology is essentially distributed bookkeeping, a kind of “consensus”. By providing a transparent, immutable and verifiable record of transactions, while creating a peer-to-peer secure platform for storing and exchanging information, it guarantees the origin and traceability of data.

Truepic’s idea is simple: when a photo is taken by a specific cell phone software, some information of the photo is generated as a unique hash value to be stored on the chain, and a copy of the encrypted image is saved and can be verified by entering a specific URL. (Of course, what is stored in the blockchain here is not the photo itself, but some data to prove the existence and characteristics of the original photo.) The information on the chain includes: time of shooting, location of shooting, name of shooting device, type of device, etc. These are the “metadata” of the photo. These are the “metadata” of the photo.

In China, the time-print blockchain camera released earlier than Truepic also has similar functions and provides QR codes and applet codes for verification in line with national usage habits. Different from Truepic’s involvement in the news field, Space-Time Seal has its own unique insights in engineering progress shooting and product traceability.

Blockchain, the vigilante of online content authenticity standards

Image from: Space-Time Seal public information

Both Truepic and Space-Time Seal can accurately do for the content, which is a very vertical landing application of blockchain technology, as a way to promote the process of all matters based on pictures to make decisions and think. The prospect of blockchain + photo is very broad. Take Truepic, the software also integrates photo management function, which can accomplish product traceability, event verification and accomplish some team goals by gathering photos together.

Media industry reshuffle
Fake news has repeatedly emerged during major social events, hitting media trust hard. Many “fake” media outlets have emerged to explain and clarify for the public, such as the famous Snopes website, which gives weighty interpretations of controversial hotspots through credible investigations and citation of authorities.

However, such “prickly” websites are thin on the ground, and although every major Internet company that can distribute content in China has its own disinformation platform, the clarifications are not interlinked. Therefore, even though there are many enthusiastic people who help to fight against falsehoods and clarify rumors, there is a lack of unified content verification standards, and disinformation is very slow to advance.

The emergence of C2PA brings great opportunities and challenges to the media industry. The inward binding force and outward openness and transparency require each platform to control the authenticity of content and promote the credibility of media with high-quality content.

Computational photography and post-production software bring a crisis of trust to the media, and blockchain throws an olive branch to the content industry in this way, providing a new direction to media platforms and social platforms that are facing a crisis of trust. Looking back at history, there has never been such a way for anyone to participate in verifying news and information in any previous period.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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