October 26, 2023

Hi, it's Ryan, reporting from the Denver Democracy Summit, where AI and misinformation are top of mind. Today's AI+ is 1,260 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: This $10K camera lets you track changes

Leica's newest camera will let you apply Content Credentials. Image: Leica

As AI photo editing apps become more accessible and pervasive, software and hardware makers are building tools to help consumers verify the authenticity of an image starting from the moment of capture, Ina reports.

Driving the news: Leica announced Wednesday that its new M 11-P camera will be the first with the ability to apply Content Credentials from the moment an image is captured.

Why it matters: Adobe, Microsoft and others are adding metadata called Content Credentials to note when AI has been used to create or alter an image. But extending content verification all the way to the camera is seen as a critical step in the battle against deepfakes.

  • Qualcomm said Tuesday that its latest high-end smartphone chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, has built-in support for similar labeling of images — both those captured in the camera and those generated through AI — using technology from Truepic.
  • Google announced the availability of its "about this photo" feature on Wednesday that offers information on how a photo was captured and altered, as well as when the image first appeared in Google's search engine. That can be helpful in breaking news situations, where old images are often recirculated.

Yes, but: Leica is a high-end camera maker and the M 11-P costs nearly $10,000. Most user-generated images come from smartphones.

  • The announcement by Qualcomm and Truepic could affect far more people, but the approach they have taken requires consumers, phone makers and app developers all agreeing to using the image-verification capability.
  • Ideally, app makers would build content authentication into all iOS and Android camera apps, something Qualcomm senior vice president Alex Katouzian told Axios he believes will happen in the coming years. "They're going to do the right thing, I believe," he said.

Be smart: This isn't a perfect solution. The key, Adobe general counsel and chief trust officer Dana Rao said, is getting enough images authenticated that people are suspicious when they see a photo without authentication.

  • While not yet incorporating the technology into their cameras, Rao noted that Canon, Nikon and Sony are all members of the Content Authenticity Initiative, which backs the Content Credential standard being used by Leica.
  • Rao also noted that momentum for the initiative has picked up with the White House calling for the labeling of AI-generated images and videos.

Between the lines: Content authentication becomes more necessary as AI-powered photo editing tools are more accessible and more pervasive. A signature feature of Google's new Pixel smartphones, for example, is a "magic editor" that lets you easily move people and objects in a photo. Adobe and others are touting similar capabilities.

What they're saying: "We believe deploying the provenance open standard on-device is one of the most significant breakthroughs toward a more authentic internet and will be the model moving forward," Truepic CEO Jeff McGregor said in a statement.

Zoom in: Widespread use of such authentication tools would be useful, for example, in the current Israel-Gaza conflict.

  • "The problem isn't that deepfakes are everywhere," Rao said. "It's that doubt is everywhere. People no longer know what to believe."

Disclosure: Some reporting for this article took place at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit in Maui, where I am moderating an AI-related panel on Thursday. Qualcomm paid for my travel-related costs.

2. White House's AI executive order is due Monday

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House is expected to announce an AI executive order Monday afternoon, which may include provisions to facilitate high-skilled immigration, Axios' Maria Curi and Ashley Gold report.

Why it matters: Congress' struggles to perform its most basic functions, from funding the government to picking a House speaker, have let the White House take the lead on regulating AI.

  • The release is timed just before Vice President Kamala Harris and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo are expected to travel to the U.K. for an AI safety summit scheduled for Nov. 1-2.

What's happening: The executive order is expected to draft federal agencies to help enforce AI standards by flexing their buying power, according to Politico.

Between the lines: The White House is also preparing to launch a website aimed at recruiting workers with artificial intelligence skills, a source familiar with the matter told Axios.

  • The goal of the site is to address bipartisan concern about a shortage of workers to research and develop AI.
  • Among other tools, the website will offer a portal to submit a resume to apply to all AI-related jobs in government.

Catch up fast: The Biden administration in recent months faced pressure from dozens of organizations and lawmakers to require government agencies to adhere to the White House's AI Bill of Rights.

  • That approach is at odds with industry groups who say companies will be overly burdened.

Of note: The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Plans could change before Monday.

Our thought bubble: The federal government has an opportunity to lead by example and provide a test bed, implementing internal guardrails that can inform legislative efforts in Congress.

A version of this story was published first on Axios Pro. Unlock more news like this by talking to our sales team.

3. China is cracking down on Foxconn

Chinese authorities have launched tax and land-use investigations into Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics maker, in a possible warning to U.S. companies and the Biden administration, reports Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

Why it matters: Foxconn factories assemble about 70% of Apple iPhones.

  • "This is a shot across the bow — a message to Foxconn but also to Foxconn's customers, alerting them that if relations between China and the U.S. get worse, these companies could incur costs," said Chris Miller, associate professor of international history at Tufts University and author of "Chip War."
  • Since numerous foreign firms beyond Apple rely on devices assembled in Foxconn factories, "this investigation could well be a signal to those companies that their operating model is at stake," Miller said.
  • The move comes just as the U.S. announced further restrictions on technology exports to China and a month before President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet in San Francisco for APEC.

What they're saying: Foxconn "will actively cooperate with the relevant units on the related work and operations," the company wrote in a statement.

Between the lines: Reuters cited two sources close to Foxconn as saying that a disclosure of the investigation by the state-owned Global Times was politically motivated.

The intrigue: Foxconn founder Terry Gou is running for president in Taiwan. He resigned from the company's board when he announced his candidacy last month.

  • Gou has cast himself as friendlier to Beijing than the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, but he's also said he can't be coerced. "If the Chinese Communist party regime were to say, 'If you don't listen to me, I'll confiscate your assets from Foxconn,' I would say, 'Yes, please, do it!'" Gou said last month.

What to watch: Apple has already begun diversifying its iPhone manufacturing — launching its first made-in-India iPhones in September.

4. Training data

Thanks to Megan Morrone and Scott Rosenberg for editing and Bryan McBournie for copy editing this newsletter.