With the increasing velocity of digital content and the democratization of powerful creation and editing techniques, robust content attribution is critical to ensure transparency, understanding, and ultimately, trust.
We are witnessing extraordinary challenges to trust in media. As social platforms amplify the reach and influence of certain content via ever more complex and opaque algorithms, mis-attributed and mis-contextualized content spreads quickly. Whether inadvertent misinformation or deliberate deception via disinformation, collectively inauthentic content is on the rise.
Currently, creators who wish to include metadata about their work (for example authorship) cannot do so in a secure, tamper-evident and standard way across platforms. Without this attribution information, publishers and consumers lack critical context for determining the authenticity of media. This is especially true for users of creative tools that enable augmenting reality with AI or even authoring fully synthetic content who need to be empowered to use their tools responsibly.
Ultimately, the solution to the problem of inauthentic content and the erosion of trust it causes will rely on efforts in three distinct areas:
First is detection of deliberately deceptive media. Through a combination of algorithmic identification and human-centered verification of intentionally misleading content the amount of inauthentic content can be reduced. However, as techniques for creating misleading content become more sophisticated and accessible we foresee an escalating arms race impeding progress on this front. As malicious purveyors of content become faster and better, detection techniques will struggle to keep pace.
Second, education is essential. Well-intentioned creators and consumers will need to understand the danger of disinformation and the use of techniques to eradicate it. They must also understand ways to use sophisticated creative tools responsibly. These are skills that must be learned and passed on through media literacy campaigns and formal education. We must all understand why and when to trust what we see, hear and read. And we must be equipped with the tools and knowledge to do so.
Finally, we must consider content attribution, which is the focus of this paper. Often referred to as provenance, attribution empowers content creators and editors, regardless of their geographic location or degree of access to technology, to disclose information about who created or changed an asset, what was changed and how it was changed. While detection can help address the problem of trust in media reactively by identifying content suspected to be deceptive, attribution proactively adds a layer of transparency so consumers can be informed in their decisions. Content with attribution exposes indicators of authenticity so that consumers can have awareness of who has altered content and what exactly has been changed. This ability to provide content attribution for creators, publishers and consumers is essential to engender trust online.
At the same time, it is critically important that those same content creators be able to protect their privacy when necessary. Any solution attempting to restore trust must be globally viable across technology contexts and minimize opportunities to cause unintended harms or risks. It must also have freedom of creative expression in media production at its core.
We seek to address the issue of content authenticity at scale. To accomplish this, we propose an open, extensible approach for content attribution and have begun working toward establishing standards with broad, cross-industry collaboration.