Over the past two years a cottage industry has emerged of media experts and journalists warning of the potential dangers of “deep fakes.” Videos of Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama saying whatever a video-editor wants them to say have been widely shared on mainstream networks to raise fears over privacy and the dangerous “post-truth” world of the Internet.
While most mainstream networks have a vested interest in questioning the legitimacy of digital and citizen-led news, there is no doubt that verifying video content is becoming more difficult.
On the one hand, deep fakes are likely to become a central component of internet culture, fueling the political caricature and memes of tomorrow. On the other hand, there is a darker side. It’s not unrealistic to envision a future in which videos from inside Syria or a protest in Iraq are doctored in a way that could alter our understanding of key events.
It’s not unrealistic to envision a future in which videos from inside Syria or a protest in Iraq are doctored in a way that could alter our understanding of key events.
The blockchain may have a solution. According to Amy James of Alexandria Labs, one of the fundamental problems of the web is that there is no public index. Today when we search the web, we’re searching a private index. This makes detecting changes to search rankings, or the de-platforming of certain ideas and even individuals, very difficult to determine.
Amy James of the’Open Index Protocol’ explains how a distributed global index for the web could help fight deepfakes.
There’s also a less obvious reason why a public index might be a good idea. James argues that “because the web doesn’t have a transparent, secure and version-controlled index it can be difficult to discern truth from fiction online.”
“the web was intended to be fully decentralised.”
On a blockchain immutable index in which every ‘transaction’ is public and recorded, it should be easier to notice when a video is first uploaded and edited, or if different versions of the exact same video are in existence.
James adds “the web was intended to be fully decentralised.” The apps we all know and love – from Spotify, to Netflix – provide customization and allow networks to scale. At the same time, “private companies build the walled garden infrastructure that we have today so the web could scale and be convenient.” While this model maybe profitable, it centralizes information and control in the hands of closed platforms. “When the web was developing in the early 90s the technology didn’t exist yet to build an index as an open standard protocol,” states James.
“When the web was developing in the early 90s the technology didn’t exist yet to build an index as an open standard protocol”
Alexandria Labs believes the future is a “fully decentralized open protocol for indexing and distribution.” Instead of artificial barriers to content access, an open-source and decentralized protocol would index all public data on the Web, recording it on the blockchain. That’s one way of figuring out if a video of Nancy Pelsoi drunk is actually real.
Full disclosure: Al Bawaba is exploring blockchain solutions on the Open Index Protocol.