Believe What You See

Alphabet’s Jigsaw unveils tool to help journalists detect doctored photos

Assembler is free, but not for the general public.

Formerly Google Ideas, Jigsaw made a big announcement on Tuesday regarding disinformation. This arm of Alphabet has created a tool that alerts journalists when a photo has been altered to include or exclude information. Image manipulation often leaves tiny artifacts behind which Assembler can detect and flag. The tool is only for use by the media, but it will be free for publications to access.

How does it work? — Assembler uses seven “detectors” trained to identify specific types of photo manipulation. Five of these detectors were crafted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, and the University of Maryland.

“I perceive very clearly the social importance of this work: in the wrong hands, media manipulation tools can be very dangerous, they can be used to ruin the life and reputation of ordinary people, commit frauds, modify the course of elections,” said Dr. Luisa Verdoliva, Associate Professor at the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University Federico II of Naples and Visiting Scholar at Google AI. The decision to limit the use of the tool seems rooted in the desire to keep bad actors away from it.

On Jigsaw’s end, the Assembler team created two detectors. One specifically addresses deepfakes while the second combines information from the other detectors to catch more complex manipulations.

But that’s not all — Jigsaw also released an interactive data visualizer that catalogs coordinated disinformation campaigns based on information from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Jared Cohen, Jigsaw’s CEO, acknowledged the visualizer is still a work in progress in a blog post.

“We’re sharing this with the wider community to enable a dialogue about the most effective and comprehensive disinformation countermeasures,” wrote Cohen.

The visualizer and further information about Assembler are packaged in Jigsaw’s newly minted, very designed research publication The Current.