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Powerful New Tool Helps Journalists Identify Manipulated Photos


The Alphabet company Jigsaw—formerly known as Google Ideas—has released a free tool called Assembler that was designed to help journalists identify manipulated imagery, no matter how sophisticated the trickery might be.

Assembler was announced yesterday in a blog post, and according to Jigsaw CEO and Founder Jared Cohen, the tool is the result of four years of collaboration between Jigsaw, Google Research, and various academic partners.

“Fact-checkers and journalists need a way to stay ahead of the latest manipulation techniques and make it easier to check the authenticity of images and other assets,” writes Cohen. “Assembler is an early stage experimental platform advancing new detection technology to help fact-checkers and journalists identify manipulated media.”

Assembler works by combining several “manipulation detectors” into a single tool. Each individual detector—some brand new and created by Jigsaw, some created by academics at various universities—is designed to spot a different kind of image manipulation; together, they can give journalists “a comprehensive assessment” of whether or not a photograph has been doctored.

Assembler is not meant to be a public tool. In fact, it won’t be released to the public at all. Instead, Jigsaw has been working with fact-checkers and news organizations from around the world like Agence France-Presse, Code for Africa, and Rappler to test and further develop the tool in real newsrooms.

The kind of “manipulated media” that Assembler is hoping to combat is used to “manipulate elections, wage war, and disrupt civil society,” writes Cohen, bringing Alphabet/Google’s engineering prowess to bear on a highly problematic issue of our times. Speaking with the New York Times, Jigsaw Product Manager Santiago Andrigo said the tool could be most helpful “in a situation where a journalist from a large news organization receives a scandalous image and is under pressure to break the news.”

To learn more about Assembler, you can head over to the Jigsaw website or read the full announcement post at this link.

(via NY Times)

Image credits: Header photo by João Silas, CC0