Fake news has been allowed to run rampant. This new run of deep fake videos, misinformation, media manipulation and propaganda has been enabled by technology. But technology enables misguided or malicious entities to act.
Technology companies are now getting together to fight the spread of fake news, and it is a refreshing, if challenging, development.
The gang – or joint development – is made up of Adobe, Arm, Microsoft, Intel, the BBC and others and goes by the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA). Others will presumably join or support in some way.
The initiative is, in essence, a standards’ making project that will enable the development of common content provenance protocols and allow publishers and others to identify where a piece of content was created and its journey from there to wherever it appears.
Examples of such initiatives are everywhere – from watermarks to prove the authenticity of banknotes or images to auction houses that will increase an antique’s sale price by providing its provenance. A rare portrait that could be by Henry Raeburn is only valuable if we know who commissioned it and where it went between that moment and the hammer coming down in a Christie’s showroom.
The difference, of course, is the sheer scale of the challenge facing the C2PA initiative. Fake news, and all its nasty friends, are produced at such speed and such scale that to automate such a watermarking scheme will, if successful, be one of the true feats of the technology world of today.
We have seen Facebook and Twitter’s efforts to combat fake news, and we have seen them employ tens of thousands of humans (who suffer from the ugliness of the task) to fight it. Automation has, so far, not worked.
Of course, fake news is not new. Propaganda has been around since Roman times, at least when the Emperor, who could not defeat his enemy, branded them barbarians and beneath his dignity to address. Thus fell the Roman Empire or one of them.
This initiative to combat fake news must be welcomed. Even if it reduces the fire hose of hostile, nasty venom spewed onto social media, it will be a good thing.
It will be interesting to see if the social media platforms themselves jump on board. It is them, after all, who are hosting most of the problem.