Tracking the truth
Fake news and doctored images are a real problem in today’s media, and with the rise of social media and modern digital technologies, the problem is escalating. Now an ESA BIC start-up is about to curb the fake photo problem.
By use of information from satellites, the start-up Serelay from ESA’s Business Incubation Centre at Harwell - ESA BIC UK - has developed a method to identify if images and videos online are fake by spotting any change since they went online.
“We have created a `trusted media capture` technology which allows photos and videos to be captured for online use, and which allows them be inherently verifiable at any later stage,” explained Roy Azoulay, founder and Serelay CEO.
In 2017 Serelay were selected for funding by the Digital News Innovation Fund, a European programme that is part of the Google News Initiative, an effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age.
Last month the company was selected as the most exciting tech start-up in the Thames Valley Tech Awards 2018.
“An increasing amount of the content we consume in a given news cycle is user generated content. While there are many positive aspects to this, a consistent problem is that 3rd party contributions are much more difficult to verify by traditional journalistic means.” explained Roy.
“Our proposed project presents a technology based alternative. Rather than trusting the individual contributor, we should develop the technological means to assess the authenticity of the media. We employ a three-tier verification architecture comprised of non-invasive cryptography, rich sensor metadata analysis and computer vision.”
Is that a fake face?
What happens both on social media but occasionally also in news is that a person or something else has been edited into a picture.
“Today I can pay online and my bank has the confidence to know the transaction originated from me and that its content is authentic. Why then can I not send a photo I captured on my device to Facebook, CNN, or anyone else for that matter, giving them the same level of confidence pertaining to its authenticity and origin?” asked Roy.
“Well, our technology can do this. It can immediately indicate online if images and videos are true or they have been altered in any way since they were uploaded.”
By combining satnav satellite information with a range of different types of signals, including nearby cell tower information, visible Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks, Serelay’s technology can automatically detect changes in both pixels and metadata.
“When we talk about Trusted Media Capture, we talk about three things, content, time and location. The cell tower information and Wi-Fi networks can be used to co-reference GPS data and assure the device was not physically spoofed using special hardware,” said Roy, who emphasized that he cannot yet reveal further details until a patent has been filed.
“Over the next few months we will be rolling out our trusted media capture technology in collaboration with a handful of early adopter platforms.”
ESA Business incubation Centre UK
“Joining the ESA BIC UK brings us one step closer to achieving our mission that is to make digital media more transparent and trustworthy for both society and the industries that rely on the digital economy,” said Roy Azoulay.
“We have already been in discussions with one major social media organisation to identify how we can help them curb the fake news problem, which they are all under pressure to do right now.
“Further to this we are working towards supporting transactional and sharing-economy platforms in the near future.”
Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at ESA BIC UK said, “Using satellite technology in the fight to maintain digital content integrity is a worthy and particularly interesting example of how space technology can benefit both society and industry, on several levels.
“I am thrilled that Serelay have joined us at the ESA BIC UK and am really looking forward to the exciting milestones that lay ahead for them.”
World's largest ecosystem for space related entrepreneurship
Operated by ESA´s Technology Transfer Programme and Business Incubation Office, the network is the world’s largest ecosystem for space related entrepreneurship and supports 160 companies per year. More than 600 new start-ups have so far been fostered.
More information about Serelay at their website.