The New York Times’ Research and Development team have an ambitious plan to take on the proliferation of misinformation in online news publishing. This so-called “News Provenance Project” will leverage the immutable and decentralized qualities of a blockchain data storage system to provide extensive metadata on media published with news stories.
According to a post from the project’s website, the team aims to create an industry-wide solution that allows readers and viewers of content to check the authenticity of media accompanying online news stories quickly.
The post states that there are inconsistencies between the data a news organization possesses about any photographs and videos they publish and the information that a reader has access to. This is particularly true with media shared online.
Validity Is Key
Typically, when a news organization records a video or takes a photograph, they will record information about when and where the media was captured, as well as by who. However, since much of this metadata is lost when content travels around online, the opportunity to spread misinformation using the media content presents itself.
The News Provenance Project comments on how bad actors can alter metadata:
“Some of the techniques are simple: recycling old images, selective cropping and editing, slowing down and speeding up videos, and so on. Other techniques are more sophisticated, involving the creation of “synthetic” media such as deepfakes.”
Initially, the project will speak with users of news platforms in an effort to discover which metadata signals and indicators are the most useful and efficient in proving content authenticity. This stage is predicted to run until late 2019.
Then, the New York Times researchers plan to build a proof-of-concept platform based on the Hyperledger blockchain to fully explore how distributed ledger technology can help restore users’ trust in the news industry:
“We are creating a system for storage and sharing of contextual metadata about photos using Hyperledger Fabric, a permissioned, private, open-source blockchain framework.”
New York Times Platform Will Be Accessible By All
Following these phases, a working group is planned to help advance future experimentation with blockchain technology. The end goal is the arrival of a suitable platform that’s accessible by all media platforms.
The ambitious project from the New York Times Research and Development team is just one of many ways blockchain technology is shaking up industries around the world. Most early practical applications outside of cryptocurrency have seen firms from diamond miners to salmon fishers experiment with the technology to track products or materials and to prove their authenticity.
What do you think about the above plans to bring accountability and trust back to journalism? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.
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