TNI steps up fight against disinformation

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At a recent summit chaired by the BBC’s Director-General, Tony Hall, the TNI agreed to a shared early warning system of rapid alerts to combat the spread of disinformation during the US presidential election.

The TNI is an industry collaboration of major news and global tech organisations working together to stop the spread of disinformation where it poses risk of real-world harm.

In the month leading to polling day, partners will alert each other to disinformation which poses an immediate threat to life or to the integrity of the election so that content can be reviewed promptly by platforms, whilst publishers ensure they don’t unwittingly republish dangerous falsehoods.

Alerts will also flag up content that undermines trust in partner news providers by identifying imposter or manipulated content which claims to come from trusted news brands.

This new expansion to the US follows the TNI’s success in tackling disinformation during the UK 2019 General Election, the Taiwan 2020 General Election and more recently, harmful coronavirus disinformation, including a claim that the UK Prime Minister had died whilst in hospital with Covid-19.

The TNI is also expanding its global network. New organisations joining the TNI for the US Election include The Associated Press and The Washington Post.

At the summit, the TNI also agreed to engage with new verification technology, called Project Origin, led by a coalition of the BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, Microsoft and The New York Times.

Project Origin is a new approach to combating disinformation by detecting the manipulation of content and authenticating the content source.

Whilst brand marks, styles, and other traditional indicators of trust continue to be critical, they are no longer enough to ensure content legitimacy. Altered or synthetic material can at times appear to come from reputable journalistic sources and this can make false or
misleading material look credible.

Project Origin attaches a digital watermark to media originating from an authentic content creator, a watermark that degrades when content has been manipulated. When fielded, audiences will see an indicator of authenticity, along with a message on the content or in the browser. This is to ensure audiences know the content, such as video, was actually produced by its purported source, and has not been manipulated for other purposes.

This technological approach can provide an automated signal warning of manipulated or fake media if it is widely adopted. The TNI will engage with the prototype, open standards and specification when they are published.

Hall said: “Disinformation is one of today’s great harms. It can undermine democracy, create division and distort public debate. Tackling it is a pressing priority.”

“That’s why it is so vital that TNI is successful. It has had a remarkable start and I’m pleased more organisations are joining the fight against disinformation. In a world of increasing division, working together is the best way to deliver results. Some people have tried to turn the term ‘mainstream media’ into a form of abuse to undermine credibility, but we are on the public’s side and will fight tirelessly to get high-quality journalism to as many people as possible.”

The partners currently within the TNI are: AFP; BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, European Broadcasting Union (EBU),Facebook, Financial Times, First Draft, Google/YouTube, The Hindu, Microsoft , Reuters, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Twitter, The Wall Street Journal.


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