Google parent tests free tool to help journalists spot doctored photographs

Google parent tests free tool to help journalists spot doctored photographs

Google's parent company Alphabet on Tuesday released a free tool for journalists to identify photos that have been doctored.

Jigsaw, an Alphabet subsidiary focused on cutting-edge technology, announced the new tool, called Assembler, in a blog post.

“Wherever we traveled these past years ... we observed an evolution in how disinformation was being used to manipulate elections, wage war, and disrupt civil society,” Jigsaw’s chief Jared Cohen wrote in the blog.

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"Disinformation today entails sophisticated, targeted influence campaigns, often launched by governments, with the goal of influencing societal, economic, and military events around the world. But as the tactics of disinformation were evolving, so too were the technologies used to detect and ultimately stop disinformation."

Assembler, which was built in coordination with Google Research and experts, combines multiple image doctoring detectors to identify if common methods of manipulating images have been used on a photo.

The tool will be tested with multiple outlets, including Agence France-Presse and Filipino news site Rappler, before being widely available for journalists.

The pilot program comes amid growing fears about manipulated photos and videos, or deepfakes, being used to mislead or trick the media.

Facebook and Reuters late last year partnered up to provide courses for newsrooms on how to identify manipulated media.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns about manipulated media, but so far have not advanced legislation to combat it.