Generative AI is extremely good at generating fake photos, fake letters, fake bills, fake conversations — fake everything. Near co-founder Illia Polosukhin warns that soon, we won’t know which content to trust.
“If we don’t solve this reputation and authentication of content (problem), shit will get really weird,” Polosukhin explains. “You’ll get phone calls, and you’ll think this is from somebody you know, but it’s not.”
“All the images you see, all the content, the books will be (suspect). Imagine a history book that kids are studying, and literally every kid has seen a different textbook — and it’s trying to affect them in a specific way.”
Blockchain can be used to transparently trace the provenance of online content so that users can distinguish between genuine content and AI-generated images. But it won’t sort out truth from lies.
“That’s the wrong take on the problem because people write not-true stuff all the time. It’s more a question of when you see something, is it by the person that it says it is?” Polosukhin says.
“And that’s where reputation systems come in: OK, this content comes from that author; can we trust what that author says?”
“So, cryptography becomes an instrument to ensure consistency and traceability and then you need reputation around this cryptography — on-chain accounts and record keeping to actually ensure that ‘X posted this’ and ‘X is working for Cointelegraph right now.’”
If it’s such a great idea why isn’t anyone doing it already?
There are a variety of existing supply chain projects that use blockchain to prove the provenance of goods in the real world, including VeChain and OriginTrail.
However, content-based provenance has yet to take off. The Trive News project aimed to crowdsource article verification via blockchain, while the Po.et project stamped a transparent history of content on the blockchain, but both are now defunct
More recently, Fact Protocol was launched, using a combination of AI and Web3 technology in an attempt to crowdsource the validation of news. The project joined the Content Authenticity Initiative in March last year
When somebody shares an article or piece of content online, it is first automatically validated using AI and then fact-checkers from the protocol set out to double-check it and then record the information, along with timestamps and transaction hashes, on-chain.
“We don’t republish the content on our platform, but we create a permanent, on-chain record of it, as well as a record of the fact-checks conducted and the validators for the same,” founder Mohith Agadi told The Decrypting Story.
And in August, global news agency Reuters ran a proof-of-concept pilot program that used a prototype Canon camera to store the metadata for photos on-chain using the C2PA standard.
It also integrated Starling Lab’s authentication framework into its picture desk workflow. With the metadata, edit history and blockchain registration embedded in the photograph, users can verify a picture’s authenticity by comparing its unique identifier to the one recorded on the public ledger.
Academic research in the area is ongoing, too.
Is blockchain needed?
Technically, no. One of the issues hamstringing this use case is that you actually don’t need blockchain or crypto to prove where a piece of content came from. However, doing so makes the process much more robust.
So, while you could use cryptographic signatures to verify content, Polosukhin asks how the reader can be certain it is the right signature? If the key is posted on the originating website, someone can still hack that website.
Web2 deals with these issues by using trusted service providers, he explains, “but that breaks all the time.”
“Symantec was hacked, and they were issuing SSL certificates that were not valid. Websites are getting hacked — Curve, even Web3 websites are getting hacked because they run on a Web2 stack,” he says.
“So, from my perspective, at least, if we’re looking forward to a future where this is used in malicious ways, we need tools that are actually resilient to that.”
Don’t believe the hype
People have been discussing this use case for blockchain to fight “disinformation” and deep fakes long before AI took off, and there has been little progress until recently.
Microsoft has just rolled out its new watermark to crack down on generative AI fakes being used in election campaigns. The watermark from the Coalition for Content Provenance Authenticity is permanently attached to the metadata and shows who created it and whether AI was involved.
The New York Times, Adobe, the BBC, Truepic, Washington Post and Arm are all members of C2PA. However, the solution doesn’t require the use of blockchain, as the metadata can be secured with hashcodes and certified digital signatures.
That said, it can also be recorded on blockchain, as Reuter’s pilot program in August demonstrated. And the awareness arm of C2PA is called the Content Authenticity Initiative, and Web3 outfits, including Rarible, Fact Protocol, Livepeer and Dfinity, are CAI members flying the flag for blockchain.
Real AI use cases in crypto, No. 1: The best money for AI is crypto
Real AI use cases in crypto, No. 2: AIs can run DAOs
Real AI use cases in crypto, No. 3: Smart contract audits & cybersecurity
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Budget 2024: Rishi Sunak hints at further national insurance tax cut – citing boost for union
A reduction in national insurance would be a “union tax cut”, the prime minister has said ahead of the budget next week.
Rishi Sunak told journalists at the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen on Friday that while he could not comment on what the chancellor Jeremy Hunt will announce on 6 March, he could see the case for trimming the levy – which is paid by workers across the UK – over income tax.
When asked about the fact a cut in the headline rate of income tax may not benefit voters in Scotland if the SNP government chooses not to pass it on, he said national insurance had been cut in January because it is a “tax on work” and benefits all parts of the nation.
“I’m sure people will appreciate that I can’t comment on any fiscal policy in advance of the budget,” he said.
“But to your broader point, the chancellor and UK government chose to cut national insurance, for lots of reasons but first and foremost because it’s a tax on work and I believe in a country and society where hard work is rewarded.”
He added: “It’s also important to us to be a government that delivers for people in every part of the United Kingdom.
“It’s a union tax cut and a tax cut for everyone in work and the contrast between what we’re doing and what the SNP are doing couldn’t be starker.
“I want to make life easier for people, I want to give them the peace of mind there’s a brighter future for them and their families.”
Some Conservative MPs have been pushing for a pre-election cut to income tax in the hope of boosting the Conservatives’ flagging popularity.
It was also one of the promises of Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign.
In Scotland, where the Conservatives are up against the SNP in all of the seats they hold and are targeting, the prime minister has dubbed the SNP the “high tax capital of the United Kingdom”, with Scots earning around £28,000 a year already paying more income tax than those who live in England due to policy decisions at Holyrood.
MSPs passed the final budget for the next financial year this week, including a new income tax band being created, which will see those on a salary between £75,000 and £125,140 paying 45%; while a 1% increase to the highest rate of tax – for those earning more than £125,140 – will take it to 48p in the pound.
In passing the budget, deputy first minister Shona Robison insisted Scotland’s tax system was “progressive” and will provide £500m in funding for the NHS.
Scotland Secretary Alister Jack confirmed he had been lobbying the chancellor for a cut in national insurance – rather than income tax.
Mr Sunak would not comment on reports the government is considering raising revenue by increasing the windfall tax on oil and gas companies, or may force “non-doms” to pay UK tax on foreign income – both ideas Labour has put forward.
PM rails against ‘extremist forces trying to tear us apart’ in Downing Street address
Rishi Sunak has railed against “extremist forces trying to tear us apart” during a Downing Street address to the nation.
The prime minister said there has been a “shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality” and added that “now our democracy itself is a target”.
He also described the Rochdale by-election result on Thursday night as “beyond alarming”, and claimed “our streets have been hijacked by small groups who are hostile to our values” as he urged the need to “beat this poison”.
His surprise speech came after the victory of maverick politician George Galloway in the Greater Manchester seat, following a campaign dominated by the highly-emotive issue of Gaza and dogged by accusations of abuse and intimidation.
In response, Mr Galloway told Sky News he “despised” the prime minister and did not care what he thought as he had won “a free and fair election”.
Community tensions in the UK have heightened against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas conflict, triggered by the militant attack on 7 October.
In the face of ongoing pro-Palestinian protests, MPs have spoken of their experiences of receiving death threats and their concerns for the safety of their families, prompting the government to announce an extra £31m to protect elected representatives.
It followed chaotic scenes in Westminster over the vote on a ceasefire in Gaza, when Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle broke with precedent in his handling of proceedings because he had concerns about the intimidation suffered by some parliamentarians, sparking a backlash.
But critics argue members of the ruling party have stoked divisions, highlighting former deputy Tory chairman Lee Anderson being stripped of the party whip after he accused London mayor Sadiq Khan of being controlled by Islamists, and former home secretary Suella Braverman referring to protests as “hate marches”.
Mr Sunak said: “In recent weeks and months, we have seen a shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality.
“What started as protests on our streets have descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence.
“Jewish children fearful to wear their school uniform lest it reveals their identity. Muslim women abused in the street for the actions of a terrorist group they have no connection with.
“Now our democracy itself is a target. Council meetings and local events have been stormed. MPs do not feel safe in their homes. Long-standing parliamentary conventions have been upended because of safety concerns.
“And it’s beyond alarming that last night, the Rochdale by-election returned a candidate that dismisses the horror of what happened on 7 October, who glorifies Hezbollah and is endorsed by Nick Griffin, the racist former leader of the BNP.”
He added: “We are a country where we love our neighbours and we are building Britain together.
“But I fear that our great achievement in building the world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy is being deliberately undermined.
“There are forces here at home trying to tear us apart.”
He went on: “Islamist extremists and far rights groups are spreading a poison, that poison is extremism.”
Mr Sunak announced a “new robust framework” would be introduced to “ensure we are dealing with the root cause of this problem”.
The prime minister said ministers would redouble their support for the anti-terrorism Prevent programme, demand universities stop extremist activity on campus and act to prevent people from entering the country whose “aim is to undermine its values”.
In an appeal to those taking part in pro-Palestinian protests, Mr Sunak said: “Don’t let the extremists hijack your marches. You have a chance in the coming weeks to show that you can protest decently, peacefully and with empathy for your fellow citizens.
“Let’s prove these extremists wrong and show that even when we disagree we will never be disunited from our common values of decency and respect.
“I love this country, my family and I owe it so much. The time has now come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and beat this poison.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer backed Mr Sunak’s call.
In a statement, he said: “The prime minister is right to advocate unity and to condemn the unacceptable and intimidatory behaviour that we have seen recently.
“It is an important task of leadership to defend our values and the common bonds that hold us together.
“Citizens have a right to go about their business without intimidation and elected representatives should be able to do their jobs and cast their votes without fear or favour.
“This is something agreed across the parties and which we should all defend.”
Electoral Dysfunction: How big a threat is Galloway and Gaza to Starmer’s Labour?
George Galloway will be back in parliament on Monday with his megaphone and a new platform to rail against Labour.
His theme is Gaza and his menace is clear.
As he accepted victory in the Rochdale by-election at around 3.30am (at a rally in a Subaru car showroom of all places), the veteran left-wing agitator warned Sir Keir Starmer “[his] problems just got 100 times more serious than they were before today”.
In Mr Galloway’s world, his win was the beginning of an earthquake that would flatten Sir Keir’s Labour.
“This is going to spark a movement, a landslide, a shifting of the tectonic plates in scores of parliamentary constituencies,” he said.
Labour, he said, was “on notice that they have lost the confidence of millions of their voters who loyally and traditionally voted for them”.
It is something that Ms Phillips, who has a large Muslim community in her Birmingham Yardley constituency, feels very strongly about.
She resigned from the Labour frontbench last year after deciding she couldn’t support the party over the Israel-Hamas war.
And she is fuming over what she sees as Mr Galloway’s sanctimony as he purports to be fighting for the people of Gaza when all he really wants to do is to sock it to Labour, as he has been trying to do in various seats for various political parties since he was kicked out of the party more than 20 years ago.
Ms Phillips said: “He is not a legitimate voice for the people of Gaza.
“He’s just trying to attack Keir Starmer.
“Knock yourself out. Attack Keir Starmer. That’s politics. I’m here for that. But don’t pretend to people who care about something that you’re going to change something.”
Mr Galloway would reject the suggestion he is not a “legitimate voice” for the people of Gaza, having campaigned on behalf of the Palestinian cause for decades. Speaking to Sky News in the wake of his victory last night, he said his views on the issue were “quite well known”.
As for whether Labour would have lost this seat to Mr Galloway regardless of whether its suspended candidate Azhar Ali had stood for Labour or not – a view of some in the party – Ms Phillips says she doesn’t know.
But what she does acknowledge is Mr Galloway’s near 6,000 majority is “testament to a broader problem” for the party.
She said: “There is a clear problem with Muslim communities feeling represented currently by the Labour movement.
“Muslim people do not want to be represented by total charlatans.
“They also want to come to you for help and need decent representation and good, good people, both from within and without their community.
“They have been saying for some time, we are losing faith, if only we noticed it.”
I don’t buy Mr Galloway’s assertion that he is triggering a “movement” across “scores” of Labour seats – not least because these divisions have been in plain sight for months, with councillors and activists quitting Labour because of the tensions over Gaza.
In some Labour seats it is undoubtedly a real problem, but what doesn’t follow is that these difficulties lead to electoral failure in a general election across a number of seats.
The by-election swings in all other races tell a very different story, with over half of Labour’s biggest by-election swings ever happening in the last couple of years.
“Rochdale was the anomaly and not any kind of indication of where we are,” says one senior Labour figure.
“At the beginning of the [Rochdale] campaign it was clear that some previous Labour voters had moved away from us on the issue of Gaza but at the same time we were picking up a lot of previous Tory voters.”
While Ms Phillips is clearly frustrated with her party leadership over Gaza, Ms Davidson says she feels “a little bit sorry” for Sir Keir, who she thinks had no option but to be fulsome in support of Israel against the backdrop of a Labour party that had been so badly tarnished by the rows over antisemitism in its ranks during the Jeremy Corbyn years.
“I think what the Gaza situation thing has exploded about is the fact that Keir Starmer had so much work to do off of Jeremy Corbyn to try and rebuild trust with Jewish communities across this country,” says Ms Davidson.
“He had to do that if he was going to be a credible candidate for the prime minister of this country; he had to make that reparation.
“And that is now being used against him. The bit [from Galloway’s election flyers], which was about Starmer being this great friend of Israel, is being used as a stick to beat him with.”
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