Nov 4, 2019

Adobe, Twitter, NYT launch effort to fight deepfakes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hoping to stem a forecast rising tide of faked video, Adobe, Twitter and the New York Times are proposing a new industry effort designed to make clear who created a photo or video and what changes have been made.

Why it matters: With editing tools and artificial intelligence rapidly improving, it will soon be possible to make convincing videos showing anyone saying anything and photos of things that never happened.

How it works: Adobe is proposing an opt-in system allowing creators and publishers a secure way to attach attribution data to content. Adobe could include the technology in its tools, but it would be an open standard that others could use as well. Adobe is showing a prototype today at its MAX conference in Los Angeles.

The big picture: Adobe and Twitter are not alone in seeing authentication as a key to fighting deepfakes. Among the players in the space is a startup called Truepic, which aims to create a secure path from the moment a photo or video is captured.

Thought bubbles from Axios' Kaveh Waddell:

  • This solves a small but important layer of the online trust crisis. This would allow a reader to verify that something came from Axios — but if they are skeptical of Axios to begin with, that won't matter.
  • Verification that isn't easily accessible threatens to bifurcate online information into "trusted content" from those who have the resources to verify it and an easily dismissed information underclass.

The big question: How are these companies planning to prove authenticity?

  • Most early attempts have leaned on blockchains, or decentralized lists of transactions that can't be altered. These can increase trust, but are harder to interact with.
  • The alternative is a database held by a single company — who would technically have the ability to change the entries.
  • Adobe says it hasn't finalized what mechanism it will use, saying it wants its partners to have a say.

What they're saying:

  • Adobe general counsel Dana Rao: "When it comes to the problem of deepfakes, we think the answer really is around 'knowledge is power' and transparency. We feel if we give people information about who and what to trust, we think they will have the ability to make good choices."
  • New York Times' head of R&D Marc Lavallee: “Discerning trusted news on the internet is one of the biggest challenges news consumers face today. Combating misinformation will require the entire ecosystem — creators, publishers and platforms — to work together."
  • Twitter trust and safety head Del Harvey: “Serving and enhancing global public conversation is our core mission at Twitter. Everyone has a role to play in information quality and media literacy."

What's next: Adobe plans a summit next month at its headquarters for all interested parties. "We do look at this as a shared responsibility," Rao said.

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Adobe brings Photoshop to smartphone cameras

Some of the effects possible using Photoshop Camera. Image: Adobe

Adobe is debuting a new app, Photoshop Camera, designed to bring the power of the popular photo-editing tool straight into the camera. The move allows consumers to apply artsy filters, swap out backgrounds and more even before the picture is taken.

Why it matters: Adobe has a goal of getting its tools in the hands of vastly more people. That means reaching consumer shutterbugs where they are at, which increasingly is within the camera app of their smartphones.

Go deeperArrowNov 4, 2019

New York Times dropping most social media trackers

The New York Times building. Photo: Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The New York Times will no longer use tracking pixels from Facebook and Twitter to track its users' browser history, executives tell Axios.

What's new: The company has created a marketing tool that will allow it to target potential subscribers on platforms like Facebook and Twitter without having to leverage its users' general browsing history.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Philosophers tackle deepfakes

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde. Photo via Francois G. Durand/Getty Images

Technology could erode the evidentiary value of video and audio so that we see them more like drawings or paintings — subjective takes on reality rather than factual records.

What's happening: That's one warning from a small group of philosophers who are studying a new threat to the mechanisms we use to communicate and to try to convince one another.

Go deeperArrowNov 9, 2019