Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Possible Tool For Dealing With the Growing Number of Faked Photos

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, aka Instapundit, has an article appearing on TCS Daily, dealing with the growing number of faked photos being foisted upon the unsuspecting consumers of the media.

Reynolds article is noteworthy in particular not only for its mention of the degree of the problem, but also for a potencial developing tool for a possible solution:
the accumulation of episodes of fakery in recent weeks, both sophisticated and crude, leads me to believe that we'll see faked video of professional quality becoming a commonplace political item in the pretty near future.

And this poses a significant problem. In a democratic polity -- or even one that's driven by things like "world opinion" -- faked news poses a real threat to decent decision-making. Worse yet, the likely outcome of widespread fakery will be a tendency on the part of people to simply dismiss news that they don't want to hear. (And we already see enough of that phenomenon as it is).

I wish there were a technical solution to this problem, but that's probably pretty far away. May sent me a link to the Columbia University TrustFoto project, which is aimed at detecting fake still images. So far, it's not very good -- I gave it an obvious fake and got a rather inconclusive response. It's a great idea, and the technology will no doubt improve, but will it ever be good enough to reliably distinguish between genuine and phony images? Not anytime soon, anyway. And identifying phony video is probably even harder.
In the meantime, the most effective tool out there for uncovering the faked photos being used by the media is your friendly neighborhood blog.

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