Microsoft has formed a new coalition with other tech giants to track the spread of “disinformation” online, but critics of the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA) say the initiative will functionally destroy privacy.
According to a post by Eric Horvitz, the software maker’s technical fellow and chief scientific officer, the coalition — which includes the BBC, Adobe, Arm, Intel and Truepic — seeks to “re-establish trust in digital content via methods that authenticate the sources and trace the evolution of the information that we consume.”
“This effort will require participation by global organizations with a desire to combat disinformation, consumers who want to regain trust in what they see and hear, and policymakers and lawmakers with the best interests of all of society as a top priority,” Horvitz continued.
While an admirable goal, critics say the problem lies in who gets to decide what is and is not “disinformation” and how that power to decide will be wielded.
But, as Breitbart’s senior technology correspondent Allum Bokhari writes, privacy is also going to be a big issue.
“Whether it’s a meme, an audio remix, or a written article, the goal is to ensure that when content reaches the internet, it will come attached with a set of signals allowing its provenance — meaning authorship” to be known, he wrote in a post late last month.
“Consider the companies that have signed on to this initiative. Leading the pack is Microsoft, which operates Word, Paint, Notepad, Edge, and the Office Suite. If you create a .doc or a .jpg, a Microsoft service is probably involved in some capacity,” he added.
In assessing the coalition’s stated objectives, Bokhari noted that collectively the corporations and entities involved will be able to destroy anonymity “from the moment it is created on a computer.” He suggested that “signals” will be attached to content and that will allow it to be censored or suppressed wherever it is posted or shared. Also, the same signals can “be used to identify the creators of dissident content.”
He said that Microsoft is not directly divulging that aspect of the coalition’s work, but there are hints throughout a press release the company put out that reveal those goals.
“According to Microsoft, the coalition was created for a single purpose: to stop the spread of ‘disinformation’ — which, in modern establishment journo-speak, means information that challenges establishment narratives,” Bokhari writes. “Disinformation, based on how the word is used today, might as well be called dissident information.”
Microsoft notes in the company release that the coalition seeks “to address the prevalence of disinformation, misinformation and online content fraud through developing technical standards for certifying the source and history or provenance of media content.”
Bokhari further noted that a “precursor” to the coalition was Project Origin,” which includes media outlets like the New York Times, the CBC, Radio Canada, and the BBC.
The mission statement for Project Origin claims: “Misinformation is a growing threat to the integrity of the information eco-system. Having a provable source of origin for media, and knowing that it has not been tampered with en-route, will help to maintain confidence in news from trusted providers.”
Mainstream media outlets, the Breitbart tech writer says, is attempting to create an environment where only its content will be viewed and hailed as ‘trusted’ over other content with competing facts or narrative that will be labeled as untrustworthy.
“We all know what this means by now. The difference is that instead of doing it via the censorship of online social media platforms and search engines, they are now going to do it at the level of offline software and hardware, most likely down to the most fundamental unit of computer hardware – the CPU,” he wrote.
“In other words, there will be nowhere to hide.”
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