As deepfakes continue to spread, the haunting potential to deceive and sow doubt is a growing concern for security experts and the general public. A recent study conducted by McAfee revealed that the majority of Americans (84%) are uneasy about the potential impact of deepfakes in 2024, particularly in regards to elections and speeches delivered by public figures.
Various solutions have been suggested to combat the deepfakes phenomenon, from cryptographic watermarks to metadata, but none have proven foolproof. However, a rising number of news organizations are rallying around blockchain technology as a means of verifying the authenticity of content from reliable sources.
Fox is the latest example, announcing at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show that it has partnered with Polygon Labs, a developer of scaling networks for Ethereum, to release an open-source protocol for media companies to register their articles, photographs, and more. Named “Verify,” this collaboration between Fox and Polygon is being presented as a way for media outlets to safeguard their intellectual property while allowing consumers to confirm the legitimacy of content.
In an email interview with TechCrunch, Melody Hildebrandt, Fox’s Chief Technology Officer, explained, “The Verify protocol establishes the origin and history of original journalism by cryptographically signing individual pieces of content on the blockchain. It relies on a content graph, connecting content to its verified publisher.”
The New York Times has also explored a similar approach to verifying news through its News Provenance Project, which utilizes blockchain technology to track metadata such as sources and edits for news photos. Additionally, the photo and video authentication startup Truepic uses the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains to notarize content and create a chain of custody.
However, Fox aims to implement its technology on a larger scale than previous efforts.
In August, Fox launched a beta version of Verify, developed in partnership with Polygon, in conjunction with the Republican primary debate on Fox News. The company now uses Verify to register content from its own brands, including Fox News, Fox Business, and Fox Sports, as well as Fox-affiliated television stations.
Hildebrandt stated that approximately 68,000 pieces of news content have been signed with Verify to date.
“The protocol is completely open-source and free for use by publishers and other creators,” Hildebrandt noted. “We are looking forward to other media companies and content publishers embracing the Verify protocol and integrating it into various publishing platforms.”
Third-party apps can be built utilizing Verify, which is designed to support all types of media content. Fox has also released its own tool, which allows users to verify uploaded images or articles via a URL and confirms that they match assets registered with the Verify protocol.
In the event of a match, Fox’s Verify app will display the publisher information associated with the content, along with the original headline and URL. If there is no match, it can be assumed that the content has been fabricated or tampered with in some way.
In addition to verification, Verify can also be used to license content to vendors for training purposes or to serve generative AI models, according to Hildebrandt – a compelling use case as the conflict between vendors and news publishers intensifies. Publishers can use Verify to enforce controls to ensure proper compensation based on how a vendor implements their content.
“Verify is also a technical gateway for AI platforms to license publisher content with encoded controls through smart contracts for LLM training or real-time use cases,” Hildebrandt stated. “We are in discussions with multiple media companies and expect to be able to share further details on that front soon.”
Of course, all of this is voluntary – the success of Verify relies on publishers, news consumers, and generative AI vendors choosing to adopt the platform. For various reasons – such as competing verification solutions – they may be deterred from doing so. As time goes on, only time will tell the fate of Verify.