Photo Archive of U.S. Pres. Transition First to Be Authenticated by CAI

A photo archive that documents the 78 days between the U.S. election and inauguration is the first to be been verified by the standards set by Adobe’s Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI), illustrating how newsrooms can address the problem of false or misleading information.

Called Project Starling, the USC Shoah Foundation and Standford University’s Department of Electrical Engineering partnered with Reuters and blockchain data integrity startup Numbers to apply Adobe’s CAI attribution standards to a project. Called 78 Days, Project Starling is launching its prototype archive called 78 Days as an example of how to create a tamper-evident, transparent set of images for photojournalists.

A view of the U.S. Capitol before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“For 78 days, teams at the Starling Lab and Reuters worked together to document the presidential transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden with an array of new image authentication technologies and decentralized web protocols,” Project Starling writes. “The prototype archive that we created is a time capsule for both this historic moment in U.S. politics and a microcosm of the difficulties reporting the news in our digital age, as allegations of fake news and altered digital photos abound.”

Based on the white paper published in August of 2020, Project Starling use dearly access to CAI specifications to implement the ideas and technologies so that the 78 consecutive days of photographs produced by Reuters photojournalists were created with cryptographically secure metadata. Their goal was to use and evaluate tools for secure capture, storage, and verification of images.

A flag flies at half staff to honor slain Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick at the U.S. Capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2021. REUTERS/Allison Shelley

“Restoring faith in online content is important now more than ever, and we’re thrilled to see Project Starling apply the Content Authenticity Initiative’s standard to its photo archive project,” Dan Rao, executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary at Adobe said in reference to Adobe’s involvement with Project Starling. “Partnerships like these demonstrate the impact of the CAI, and we look forward to continuing to build strong alliances across hardware, software, publishing, and social media to help society move forward in restoring our faith in facts and content.”

Project Starling notes that technology is not a cure-all that will solve the trust issues with media, but it can help establish and restore trust by improving how news is gathered, authenticated, and published.

This early prototype is seen as a glimpse into a future where digital photos are transformed “by advanced cryptography and decentralized web protocols.”

In the archive, clicking on the “i” in the upper right-hand corner of an image will give you an overview snapshot of the photo’s provenance and links to the records that log its authenticity. Clicking on “view more” in the overlay will launch a web-based app that lets you see the full history of changes made to the photo over time.

via Project Starling

You can peruse the 78 Days archive here, and see these features for yourself.

To this point, the CAI has been an idea that sounded like a process that should be implemented but stopped there: it was just an idea. The rollout of the 78 Days project is proof that the process not only can work but is a demonstration of exactly how it can function. From here, it’s just a matter of a larger rollout for all images captured by photojournalists and not just ones that are archived for specific projects.


Image credits: All images, including the header image, via Reuters and used with permission.

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