Photoshop's upcoming tagging system will help identify edited images

Adobe plans to preview the tech later this year.


Last year, with help from The New York Times and Twitter, Adobe started working on the Content Authenticity Initiative, an attempt to cut down on the number of altered images that circulate online. Adobe said the technology would use metadata tagging and cryptography to help the public properly attribute and verify the authenticity of images, videos and other content. That tech will soon get its first test.

In a recent whitepaper, the company said it will ship a preview version of Photoshop that includes the technology later this year. It also plans to integrate it into Behance, its social media network for creative professionals. Photoshop will add tags to images users create that will provide insights about their origins. Those tags may tell you who the original photographer of an image was, as well as when and where they took the photograph. Those details will be cryptographically signed to vouch for their authenticity.

As Wired points out, the initiative could one day help social media networks like Twitter and Facebook bolster the automated systems they already use to flag misleading images. Say a tragedy happens and people start sharing photos from the scene, the technology could assist those systems in preventing images that someone claims are from the same event from spreading.

However, the system will only be as effective as the number of companies and organizations that adopt it. To make a dent against all the misleading images shared online, camera manufacturers, software developers, social media networks and media outlets will need to adopt the standard. At the moment, it's hard to say whether that will be the case.

Limiting Photoshop's ability to spread misinformation is something Adobe has been thinking about for a while. In 2019, the company worked with researchers from UC Berkeley to train a machine learning-powered algorithm to spot images made with the software's Face Away Liquify feature, a tool you can use to change and exaggerate a person's facial features. The difference here is that publishers could use the company's tagging system to spot a variety of fake images, not just ones created using one tool.