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Another big thank you to my readers who keep me sending me interesting breadcrumbs to follow online because they lead to my more interesting rants. The latest curiosity presented to me was the Trusted News Initiative (TNI). Who are they? I had no idea before today, but now I wish I knew less about this radical bunch motivated by hubris.
THIS IS REALLY SCARY
The Trusted News Initiative is a loose partnership between mainstream media outlets and big tech companies whose sole purpose is to shield the public from “misinformation.” They have actively worked to control the narrative on presidential elections across the globe, including the 2020 Presidential election between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden in America. Specifically, the Trusted News Initiative meddled in the UK 2019 General Election and the Taiwan 2020 General Election. The Trusted News Initiative also worked on silencing “disinformation” about the Wuhan coronavirus.
So, just who are the people and companies involved with TNI, specifically? Unfortunately, I don’t have an org chart to share. However, much can be gleaned from various blog posts. Consider these quotes from the BBC blog…
A year ago the BBC convened partners across the world in an urgent challenge: at times of highest jeopardy, when elections or lives are at stake, we asked, is there a way that the world’s biggest tech platforms – from Google, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to Twitter and Microsoft and major news organisations and others – from the European Broadcasting Union, the Wall Street Journal and The Hindu to Reuters, AFP, The Financial Times, CBC/Radio-Canada, First Draft, The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism – can alert each other to the most dangerous false stories, and stop them spreading fast across the internet, preventing them from doing real world harm?
Further down in the blog it reads…
But we have now found a way to alert each other so partners are on guard at particular times of the highest jeopardy, ready for the most serious “break-glass” moments when viral disinformation risks real world harm. And we have done that without in any way muzzling our own journalism. We have been sharing alerts over Covid-19, and before that, over falsities which posed a threat to democratic integrity during the UK and Taiwan Elections. And now we are sharing alerts over the most serious disinformation in two very different elections – in the US and in Myanmar. And because different news organisations are most relevant in different regions, we are working with a wide and expanding group of publishers. In the US we are also working with the Washington Post, AP and the LA Times.
One of TNI’s tools is “Project Origin” which is described as verification technology which will tag content in order to identify when it has been manipulated. It was discussed in detail on the European Broadcasting Union blog…
Project Origin attaches a digital watermark to media originating from an authentic content creator, a watermark that degrades when content has been manipulated. Audiences will see a small colour indicator along with a message on the content or in the browser. This is to ensure audiences know the content, such as video, was actually produced by its purported source, and has not been manipulated for other purposes.
This technological approach could potentially give an automated signal warning of manipulated or fake media if it is widely adopted. The TNI will engage with the prototype, open standards and specification when they are published in September.
While I was unaware of the Trusted News Initiative (TNI), I reported on Project Origin before and am all the more concerned about its full manifestation because it is a harbinger of privacy’s demise. And that may sound dramatic yet I am sure it is more fact than fantasy. The press has colluded in the past to sway public opinion (i.e. JournoList, an email chain of 400 progressives who coordinated their messaging to favor Barack Obama and the Democratic Party while simultaneously attacking Sarah Palin and the Republican Party) yet, they did not have the tech partners of today to support them.
Who oversees TNI’s decisions on what I am allowed to see? Who elected them the unaccountable arbiters of truth? Why are they allowed to have so much unregulated power over public opinion? At the very least, I would think some anti-trust laws are being violated in some countries, even if not ours. They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I think the Trusted News Initiative is happily skipping into that direction with their censorship for the greater good ideology.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
TNI is not the only player in the game trying to rebuild the public’s trust in the mainstream media. There are several, although I don’t know if their tentacles are as far reaching as the TNI; neither do I know which are angels and which are not. For the sake of your own curiosity, I will link to the ones I’ve found for you to decide on your own.
- Trusting News – Helping journalists earn news consumers’ trust
- The Trust Project – We help over half a billion people easily assess the integrity of news worldwide. And we’re growing fast. (Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Bing are among their partners)
- The News Integrity Initiative (NII) at the Newmark J-School was launched in 2017 to advance media literacy and increase trust in journalism.
- The Journalism Trust Initiative to combat Disinformation – an innovative media self-regulatory initiative designed to combat disinformation online. Partners include Agence France Presse (AFP), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Global Editors Network (GEN).
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