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Big Tech and mainstream media team up to tackle election “misinformation”

Partners will tip each other off when they find what they think is fake news.

Trusted News Initiative, a foundation committed to combating fake news is establishing a collaborative early warning system of fake news alerts. The idea is to fight the spread of misinformation ahead of the November presidential elections.

TNI is a collaboration of major news networks and big tech companies created in 2019 to address the global issue of misinformation. TNI partners in the tech world include , , , and Microsoft. News networks supporting the initiative include The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Reuters, CBC, AFP, the European Broadcasting Union, The Financial Times, and The Hindu.

The system will be up and running in the month before the polls and includes:

  • Early Warning System: creating a system so organisations can alert each other rapidly when they discover disinformation which threatens human life or disrupts democracy during elections. The emphasis will be on moving quickly and collectively to undermine disinformation before it can take hold.

  • Media Education: a joint online media education campaign to support and promote media education messages

  • Voter Information: co-operation on civic information around elections, so there is a common way to explain how and where to vote

  • Shared learning: particularly around high-profile elections

The partners will alert one another of what they think is misleading information that either has the potential of compromising the “integrity of the election” or that “threatens life”. The will also flag “manipulated” content – which usually refers to photoshopped images and deep fakes.

All that will be achieved through a verification technology dubbed Project Origin, which is sponsored by a coalition of Microsoft, The New York Times, BBC, and CBC. The technology will attach a digital watermark to content coming from “trusted” sources. Project Origin also allegedly has the capability to identify manipulated content and provide automated warning alerts.

“Disinformation is one of today’s great harms. It can undermine democracy, create division, and distort public debate. Tackling it is a pressing priority,” said Tony Hall, the director-general of BBC
“That’s why it is so vital that TNI is successful. It has had a remarkable start, and I’m pleased more organizations are joining the fight against disinformation. In a world of increasing division, working together is the best way to deliver results.”

The Washington Post and The Associated Press are among the latest networks to join TNI.

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