Jul 14, 2020 - Economy

Project Origin is watermarking media to fight fake news ahead of the election

A GIF of a browser screen being splattered with colors.

Illustration: Caresse Haaser, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

An international coalition of news and tech companies, including the AP, The Washington Post, Facebook and others, is partnering with a different coalition led by the BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, Microsoft and The New York Times called Project Origin to fight fake news during the U.S. election.

How it works: The project aims to place digital watermarks on media originating from authentic content creators. The watermark will degrade when content has been manipulated. The verification system will be deployed in the month leading up to the U.S. election.

The big picture: There are several initiatives that have simultaneously launched in the past two years that aim to place digital watermarks or labels on news stories to verify their authenticity. To name a few:

  • Digimarc Corporation researchers introduced a digital watermarking system to combat deepfakes in January.
  • Newsguard launched in 2018 to add "nutrition labels" to news websites.

Our thought bubble: With separate groups trying simultaneously to solve the same problem using similar labeling and watermarking tactics, it's hard to keep track of what's working and what various news partners should be implementing.

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