Solving the ‘photoshoping of media’ problem

The problem we have with digital photography is that it is very easy to manipulate and difficult to detect. This means that photographs that are used to document reality, become unreliable. This problem will expand to include audio and video media in the near future. Very soon, any form of digital documentation becomes suspect. Existing media can be altered and new media can be fabricated. Any ‘proof’ becomes refutable.

There is a solution that is fairly simple: voluntary inclusion of block chain information in the meta data. The block chain would include origination of the media including equipment, geolocation and user. Any time that the media is edited in any way, a new entry in the block chain would be created. As stated, the inclusion of the block chain meta data is strictly voluntary. Some may opt to not include the meta data in their media, and people will recognize that media without meta data has less validity, but is not invalid.

Some examples of how this idea might work: A major news network such as CNN posts a video of a political campaign speech. An unknown user posts an edited version of the speech that shows the campaigner making insensitive statements in a popular forum. Because the meta data lists the fact that the video was edited and the origin, the video can be compared to the original.

An unknown and unverified user posts a video of a crime committed by a celebrity. The metadata includes date, time and geolocation information. On that date, it is well documented that the celebrity was in the vicinity so the video gains validity. Another video surfaces of the celebrity in lawful activity, taken by a credible source nearby and within an hour of the the crime. This can add credence to a video of dubious source.

A video surfaces of a high-profile athlete in a compromising position. There is no meta data of any kind. Because meta data is automatically added by recording devices, someone would need to strip the information, and so the video is assumed to be fake.

Some may argue that this approach mutes the voice of the common person and this is true. It is also true that the common person has no reputation on a global scale the way a news service does and so should not receive the same scrutiny. On the other hand, if multiple low-level users can verify each other with similar media and meta data, then the event in question gains authenticity.

This will not solve all problems with forgeries and fakes, but will go a long way towards diminishing the impact.