People worldwide are trying to address a variety of major concerns around Generative AI and the spread of misinformation. However, a group of media and tech companies in Japan thinks it might have found a solution.
“We must now clearly present ourselves as reliable, authentic sources and originators of information,” Riichiro Maeki, Senior Managing Director and Managing Editor of The Yomiuri Shimbun, told participants at WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress in Taipei.
Maeki was discussing a new technology called the Originator Profile (OP), which The Yomiuri Shimbun, along with 27 other media companies, has introduced.
The Yomiuri Shimbun is the world’s largest circulated daily newspaper with nearly 6.5 million copies delivered each day. It also publishes an English-language daily, the Japan News, along with newspapers catering to students.
Together with Nippon TV, it forms Japan’s largest media conglomerate, with 1,750 reporters working at 330 locations across the country and in bureaus, globally.
Yomiuri Shimbun’s emphasis on authenticity
Generative AI consumes a vast amount of information from the internet to generate answers, but whether the source is reliable, unreliable or even malicious remains unclear.
“Concerns about whether Generative AI might be misused to spread false information must be an issue that cannot be ignored when discussing its efficacy,” Maeki said.
Generative AI, which creates output based on existing second-hand information, is alien to journalism. The Yomiuri Shimbun’s coverage relies solely on first-hand information and must clarify its authenticity.
Originator Profile aims to establish sources of information
The rampant sharing of information makes it difficult to trace the actual source, compelling news publishing companies to find solutions.
Thus, Japan’s newspapers, TV stations, media advertising firms, a telecommunications company, and a platform enterprise came together to build a framework based on a technology called the Originator Profile (OP).
The goal of the OP is to reveal the source or originator of the information, much like embedding watermarks in banknotes.
The OP is embedded as an electronic identifier in each piece of information, such as an article or advertisement, to guarantee its authenticity.
To be precise, data about the sender of the information is embedded in the identifier, allowing users to view information related to credibility, which is confirmed by a third-party organisation. This means the credibility-related information should, for example, be a part of the editorial and reporting policy for media companies and a part of the corporate stance for advertisers.
Birth of Originator Profile
Professor Jun Murai from Keio University in Japan, also known as the country’s “Father of the Internet”, is one of the world’s leading tech engineers who contributed to the development and growth of the World Wide Web.
According to Maeki, Murai often cites the now-closed Mangamura website as an example of today’s internet-related problem. Why? The site allegedly posted pirated contents of Japanese manga (that refers to all kinds of cartoons, comics and animation) without permission.
What surprised the professor was the banner ad from Japan’s national tax agency that appeared on the site, urging taxpayers to file their tax return by the due date.
Today, digital advertising often relies on programmatic advertising. While transactions are completed instantly, the digital advertising market, unfortunately, lacks strict governance.
“With an app for the OP, people can check the sources of information when they come across something suspicious. Once such a mechanism is established, the internet will be a safer space,” Maeki said.
Bringing in key stakeholders
Murai led the development team of OP, which Maeki said was instrumental in Yomiuri Shimbun’s decision to participate since its early stages.
“No matter how excellent the technology is, if many people do not use it, the development will not succeed,” he said.
To avoid that, Yomiuri Shimbun decided to create an organisation called the Originator Profile Collaborative Innovation Partnership (OPCIP) to include as many media and advertising stakeholders as possible.
The partnership began in December 2022 and now has 27 members, including all of Japan’s national newspapers. TV stations, advertising companies such as Dentsu, telecommunications giant NTT and Yahoo Japan are also members.
These companies will test the technology on their own sites with the goal of putting it to practical use.
Major advertising agencies are also welcome, Maeki said.
“This technology can provide a solution to issues such as ad fraud. It can also protect brands from the risk of having their advertisements posted on illegal websites,” he added.
Maeki believes that if all articles and advertisements can be embedded with the OP’s electronic identifiers, it will lead to transparency in the distribution of digital advertising.
Aiming for widespread use by late 2025
The technology will begin testing by the end of the year.
“We aim for the widespread use of the OP in Japan by the end of 2025,” Maeki revealed. “We do not intend to limit our efforts to Japan alone.”
Yomiuri Shimbun also aims to bring it to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to have it adopted as an international standard.
Once officially adopted by the W3C, many possibilities could arise. Not only will it be established as an international standard, but at the same time, if browsers are required to support it, will allow internet users to identify the originator of the information.
If a work is reproduced, transformed, or adopted, it can be considered infringement of the copyright of the protected work. This applies to work generated using AI.
“If we develop the OP to identify those who create such copies using generative AI, we will be able to clarify the sources of dubious information to some extent. Newspapers and other media outlets may also be able to confirm if their reports were used by generative AI,” he said.
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