The New York Times publication has worked on a blockchain solution to combat misleading pictures in social media.
On June 12, it has been reported in a blog post that the publisher built a prototype to provide reliable metadata on various pictures found online. Often, pictures taken in a different location at a different time will be used in connection with unrelated events.
Through the platform, readers and social media users will be able to know who took the picture and when.
However, the system, technologically, used an IBM blockchain platform developed directly by IBM Garage, to ensure that the data remains tamper-proof.
The blog post explained that the system requires a permissioned enterprise blockchain “to ensure the right members of the network have the appropriate permissions for the metadata.”
It has been analyzed that the New York Times team realized that in addition to knowing when the picture was taken, readers are also interested in knowing where it appeared earlier.
The solution is still a prototype and the publication’s team found several issues in the implementation.
Likewise, the prototype was heavily simplified and used a single smart contract that automatically approved all new pictures. In the real world, that content must be reviewed and validated by the organization that published the original picture, as that can become problematic with some metadata fields, like the description of an event.
As per the report, the biggest challenge is matching pictures with their version on the blockchain. Due to the fact that pictures can be modified through software, a computer may not recognize that a slightly altered image is in fact present in the blockchain.
Also, further advances in computer vision and image recognition seem to be necessary to make this platform a reality.
Accessibility to the blockchain was also noted as a concern.
The team noted:
“News organizations with varying financial and technical resources need to be able to participate.”
The report said that a public blockchain could help to solve this, though it may be more difficult to ensure adequate permission levels.
The new prototype follows similar efforts by Italian news agency Ansa, which uses blockchain to “certify” its news stories.
Thus, the system developed by the NYT provides a straightforward use-case. If implemented, it could help curb a common source of misinformation across both traditional and social media.