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News outlets will digitally watermark content to limit misinformation

Project Origin is part of the broader Trusted News Initiative.
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BRAZIL - 2020/06/15: In this photo illustration the Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone and a red alerting word "FAKE NEWS" on the blurred background. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images

In the run-up to the 2020 US election, a group of major media organizations will once again work together to try and clamp down on fake news. The Trusted News Initiative (TNI) is a coalition of blue-chip publishers and Microsoft which have pledged to work together to tackle disinformation. And, this year, the team will try using a new verification technology, dubbed Project Origin, to try and watermark legitimate content. That way, it’s hoped, scammers can’t mock up a headline and pass it off as real news as easily as they once did.

“Brand marks, styles and other traditional indicators of trust,” says the BBC in a statement, “they are no longer enough to ensure content legitimacy.” That’s why Project Origin will attach a “digital watermark” to stories from TNI partners that shows them that the news has come from an official source. The idea is both to help people find trusted news, but also to filter out faked content. Unfortunately, there’s no word on how this will work yet -- the standards for Project Origin have yet to be published.

TNI Members include the BBC, NYT, CBC and the WSJ as well as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, with the AP and Washington Post joining this year. It’s likely that Google and Facebook will have to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility after being willing incubators of fake news for so long. Sadly, Project Origin isn’t going to be standard from now on, and instead will run in the month just before the 2020 election. That means that malign actors have got from now until early October to get their material in front of people. 

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