Alphabet launches a tool to combat deepfakes

The Google Parent Alphabet tool is intended to help journalists verify the manipulation of photos and videos, something that could be useful during this politically tense election season.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has created a free tool called Assembler that seeks to help determine if a photo is real or has been manipulated. The effort seeks to help journalists and fact-checkers fight against the deepfakes known as deepfakes and other attempts to manipulate the truth.

The tool combines a collection of tests to detect evidence of effects such as pasting part of one photo into another, editing the brightness or removing background regions.

The project comes from Jigsaw, a team of engineers, designers, researchers, policy experts, and others in Alphabet who have come together to combat digital aspects of problems such as misinformation, harassment, censorship, violent extremism, and electoral manipulation.

Online manipulations, including deepfakes photos and videos created with deep learning artificial intelligence technology, are a growing concern as new tools facilitate such fabrications. It is a particularly sensitive issue in the United States, especially in the current political environment, with foreign interference in the elections as a real problem and social networks as a powerful source of information although with credibility problems. However, misinformation attacks are a worldwide problem.

Jigsaw has addressed other issues, such as clarifying technology jargon, combating government censorship, protecting freedom of expression and reducing electoral fraud. Google, however, is involved in all this, as search results are the main way people find information, and can be manipulated. In addition, YouTube, owned by Google, is working to end deepfakes amid politicians’ concerns.

Among the data and news verification organizations that test the Alphabet Assembler tool include Agence France-Presse, Animal Politico, Code for Africa, Les D├ęcodeurs du Monde and Rappler, Jigsaw chief executive Jared Cohen said in an entry the blog on Tuesday, February 4.


“Fact verifiers and journalists need a way to stay ahead of the latest manipulation techniques and facilitate verification of the authenticity of images and other assets,” Cohen said in the blog.

But ordinary people will not be able to upload that suspicious photo shared on Facebook to verify its veracity.

“This is an arms race between those who contribute the tools to counter the problem and the bad actors, and we want to make sure that our work tilts the balance in favor of the good guys,” said Jigsaw product manager Santiago Andrigo, in a statement. “Considering this, we are being very careful and intentional about who has access to Assembler, and very diligent in monitoring possible signs of abuse.”


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