TruBlo Newsletter #18

TruBlo Newsletter #18

##TruBlo Open Call starts today

Today we are starting the 2nd of three open calls. The call will be open until September 10, 2021. Find all the information [to apply on our website](https://www.trublo.eu/apply/). 

If you have questions, please contact us at  [info@trublo.eu](mailto:info@trublo.eu)

***

Updates this week:

#TRUST

***

##How did the FBI recover Bitcoins paid in a ransomware attack?

The recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in the US worried many people that the supply of gas would be threatened. In such an attack, hackers gain access to the IT system of a company and block further usage. In this case, the company paid 75 Bitcoins worth around $4 million. 

Surprisingly, the US justice department has now recovered most of these Bitcoins by tracing and later seizing them. It is surprising because so far many would have assumed that such coins could be very difficult to trace and to recover, once paid. It is unclear whether the authorities had information from an insider or were able to trace it by technical means. 

Quote from a report in the New York Times.

> “Federal investigators tracked the ransom as it moved through a maze of at least 23 different electronic accounts belonging to DarkSide, the hacking group, before landing in one that a federal judge allowed them to break into, according to law enforcement officials and court documents.”

[LINK](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/09/technology/bitcoin-untraceable-pipeline-ransomware.html)

Another question, asked in the article linked below from VentureBeat: Why did the hackers use Bitcoin (where information can be traced, to some extent) and not another cryptocurrency where this would have been harder? And as important: How can one avoid such ransomware attacks by securing the IT system? 

[LINK](https://venturebeat.com/2021/06/13/a-question-no-one-is-asking-about-the-colonial-pipeline-ransom-attack/)

***

##Sustainability as a driver for blockchain adoption in the fashion industry

Producing fashion is a global business with complex supply chains. As a result, it is almost impossible for a consumer to check how the clothes are produced. This includes where and how materials are sourced, which shop did manufacture them and how they are shipped. The process is so far difficult to document for the fashion companies as well. But the need for transparency and the potential gains for productivity might change this. Blockchain records of supply chains are in demand because more and more consumers demand information about sustainability from fashion brands.

[LINK](https://www.forbes.com/sites/josephdeacetis/2021/06/05/from-blockchain-to-content-new-industries-will-lead-the-fashion-and-style-sector/)

***

##Can you spot a dark pattern?

A dark pattern is a website design used to confuse users. For example, such a design aims to keep people from ending a subscription. 

There are many tricks and practices. What they have in common is that specific placement of options, words and buttons is combined to make it difficult for you to do what you want. Do you think you can detect such a pattern? Test it. The Markup has a short quiz – very helpful to learn a bit more when to be careful. 

[LINK](https://themarkup.org/2021/06/03/dark-patterns-that-mislead-consumers-are-all-over-the-internet)

***

#CONTENT

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##News sources reconsider theory that coronavirus spread from a lab in China: How is this done well?

Here is a difficult, but interesting question: What are the best ways to change the opinion and the reporting about a disputed theory? 

Example: So far, there is a theory that the coronavirus has infected patient zero from a wild animal purchased at a Chinese market in Wuhan. 

But another, controversial theory is that the virus might have escaped from a medical facility located in that city. In 2020 the majority of media outlets reporting about this topic dismissed the lab story as a potential conspiracy theory. 

This year, though, the story is investigated again. While no substantial new facts are available, the view is now that the lab theory could potentially be true. US President Biden has ordered an investigation by intelligence agencies.

What is interesting and relevant here is: How do news institutions communicate such a turn of opinion? What is a good way to be transparent and open about such changes? Such as: “We reported this, and it might be wrong. Instead, this might be the truth.” 

This case could be a test.  

>“New information often casts out old, but it is unusual for news outlets to acknowledge so publicly that they have changed their understanding of events.”

[LINK](https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/the-media-called-the-lab-leak-story-a-conspiracy-theory-now-its-prompted-corrections–and-serious-new-reporting/2021/06/10/c93972e6-c7b2-11eb-a11b-6c6191ccd599_story.html)

***

##How to use disappearing messages on WhatsApp or Signal

On both services, there are settings to let some messages disappear after some days. Signal offers richer features. On WhatsApp, the feature is new. 

When can you use this feature?

>“Disappearing messages are an ideal tool for people who are concerned their chats could be checked – especially if there is anything about themselves they want to keep private, says Scott Sammons, information and data specialist Lighthouse IG. “This could apply to a domestic abuse setting or someone, for example, hiding the fact they are LGBTQ.”

On Signal, you can select the time when a message should disappear, between one second and four weeks. The timer starts when the message is read. There is a similar feature for photos and videos. 

On WhatsApp, the feature only lets you set a time span of seven days.

More advice if you follow the link.

[LINK](https://www.wired.co.uk/article/whatsapp-signal-disappearing-messages)

***

#BLOCKCHAIN

***

##Politicians from South America use Bitcoin announcement for self-promotion

First: It is not yet clear whether countries in South America will adopt cryptocurrencies such as blockchain. But for politicians from the region, the idea is currently attractive and a way to boost one’s profile. This started with El Salvador issuing a law to make Bitcoin a legal tender in the country. 

>“El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele set off a movement for political opportunists and crypto-enthusiasts alike.”

[LINK](https://restofworld.org/2021/latin-america-politicians-bitcoin/)

In Europe, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central bank, reaffirmed that the position of the ECB has not changed. Lagarde had warned about Bitcoin in January 2021: 

> “It’s a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity.”

Regarding the position of the ECB towards Bitcoin after the new development in El Salvador, she is quoted to have said: 

>“That certainly does not change our approach to crypto-assets and to regulations, supervision, and proper classification that they should be under to avoid misinformation and misleading representations.” 

[LINK](https://news.bitcoin.com/christine-lagarde-ecb-crypto-policy-bitcoin-legal-tender-el-salvador/)

On the other side: In the Netherlands Pieter Hasecamp, the director of the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, which is part of the country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, has voiced much stronger concerns about the dangers of Bitcoin. In an article, he recommends banning cryptocurrencies in the Netherlands:

>“Cryptocurrencies are unsuitable as a unit of account and means of payment outside the criminal circuit; its use as a store of value is based on the hope that cryptocurrencies will one day replace real money. But that’s not going to happen.”

[LINK](https://news.bitcoin.com/dutch-official-predicts-crypto-market-crash-netherlands-must-ban-bitcoin/)

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision recommends very careful handling of crypto assets by banks, the goal is to avoid that institutions expose themselves to high risk. The Basel Committee sets standards for banking policies, such as how high the number of own assets must be for a bank related to the sum of credits and loans. 

The Basel Committee published a paper called  [“Prudential treatment of crypto-asset exposures”](https://www.bis.org/bcbs/publ/d519.htm). For cryptocurrency exposure, the Basel Committee proposes a 1250% risk weighting, which is very high. 

[Link](https://www.ledgerinsights.com/basel-committee-capital-requirements-for-bank-crypto-holdings-stablecoins/)

***

##Amazon wants to hire DeFi expert(s)

According to a job ad in the US, Amazon is searching for staff with experience in decentralized finance (DeFi). The position is for a Blockchain Head of Product. Amazon has recently added a “Managed blockchain” offering. 

[LINK](https://www.coindesk.com/amazon-looks-to-hire-blockchain-staffers-with-experience-of-defi)

***

##China aims to be a global leader in Blockchain by 2025

Top telecom and internet regulators in China jointly published guidelines on how the country can transform into a global leader in blockchain as early as 2025. At the same time, Chinese authorities are blocking and curbing cryptocurrency mining operations in the country. 

The expectation is that blockchain will be a key building block for the digital economy and a way to modernize governance systems. 

[LINK](https://pandaily.com/china-aims-to-become-global-leader-in-blockchain-by-2025-as-cryptocurrency-crackdown-widens/)

***

Thank You for reading. 

Did we miss something you think would have been relevant? Let us know. 

Do you work for or know a European company doing innovative work with blockchain? Sent us a link. 

Do you have other feedback or suggestions? [Contact us](mailto:info@trublo.eu)

***

 

Interview: How WordProof got started

Interview: How WordProof got started

Adding timestamps to digital content is the core idea of WordProof. We asked questions to the founder and CEO to better understand the motivation and the goals of the company.


TruBlo: Welcome and thanks for taking the time for this interview. Before we go further – what is your background?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “I work full-time in open source software since 2006. I founded one of the first WordPress agencies in the Netherlands. That agency today is really an open-source company, a team of 25 is working there. We did a lot of stuff for publishers, we built an open-source plug-in to be GDPR-compliant, which runs on over 200,000 websites today.”

“Open-source technology is able of doing so much more than ‘just’ publishing.”

When did you start working with blockchain and the concept of timestamps?

Sebastiaan van der Lans:  Since 2013 I learned about Bitcoin, in 2014 I programmed my first smart contract. In 2018 I thought, OK, open-source technology is able of doing so much more than ‘just’ publishing. We need to build a better world through technology. I believe that to save the world, we need to fix the internet. And the key is: We can really bring trust to the internet through blockchain technology. The internet was built to connect computers to computers. But computers are just technology. What if we can make computers enable better human-to-human communication, similar to how we have communication in the real world? So trust must become part of the DNA of the internet. What is trust? Trust is the sum, in our eyes, of transparency and accountability. With blockchain timestamps, you can achieve exactly that, in an open source way, for the first time in history.

So, in 2018 I decided to work full-time on what we then called WordProof. We made a proof of concept and launched the idea at the largest WordPress conference in the world. That was Wordcamp Europe 2019.

What was the reaction there? Did people understand the concept?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “It was a standing ovation. It was really cool. You can watch the keynote, it is available as a video. “

From WordPress to Blockchain, the Future is 100% Open-Source

For the TruBlo website, we are using WordPress as well. It is great to have a CMS enabling to publish on the internet. But this leads to one issue for many creative people, like writers, photographers. You can upload any photo, and then it is up to the creator to pursue his rights. Why is there no way of getting paid for valuable work?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “Timestamps offer an open source way to prove that you were the first one to publish certain information. There is a video we made for our academy, showing how this can help you to protect your content.”

Ok, yes, that is helpful. Though, why is it so difficult to find a good compensation model for creative people (photographers, video makers, writers) who help to create all the content for the web?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “I understand what you say there. A good example is the GDPR plug-in we made, as an agency. We had the great wish to do something for the open-source community. I always start my conversations like this: Who loves GDPR? Everybody starts to laugh then usually. Because nobody loves GDPR. But I find GDPR wonderful. It is true: The execution was not beautiful, but the intention is great. We want to have a better internet for the citizens of Europe. So we thought: OK, nobody wants to pay to become GDPR-compliant. Let’s make it for free. Let’s make it an open-source plug-in, as opposed to a paid plug-in. We did that and by now had over two million downloads and more than 200K active installations. As an agency, we had bigger problems when we launched this. What was the problem? We were not able to find good enough developers. As there is such big competition on the market. I invested around 100,000 Euros from our company money to create a good, free GDPR plug-in. As a result, it was really for us to get great developers, as people love to work on open-source projects. And in addition, sales became easier. Because in every sales conversation the question was: How do you work with GDPR? We said: We have a plug-in running on 200,000 websites. It makes sales easier. So the direct business model of open source is totally terrible, but the indirect benefits are huge. There is a business case for open source as well.”

“… logical next step is a trusted web where all information that matters is transparent. It’s just a successor of today’s web.”

Why is there a need for a future, trusted web?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “First there was the unregulated internet. Then there was GDPR, as it was a logical next step to protect the data of the citizens. And a logical next step after that is a trusted web where all information that matters is transparent. It’s just a successor of today’s web. A trusted web-based on timestamps is a logical next step after GDPR, this is how this is what we are showing to policymakers, not only in Europe but around the world.”

How can timestamps enable more trust in content?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “There are lots of use cases regarding the protection of content. But that is not the only thing. For example, one of my favourite use cases is to use timestamps for search engines. If you have a small website and a large website, both publishing news at the same time – then often Google things that the large site was first, simply because they crawl the large sites more often. So, as a result, the large site ranks higher for the same news. In Google News, for example, 60 to 70 per cent of all information and all traffic goes to the first one who publishes something. But the small publisher does not get the chance to rank high in the Google Index. So what we work on together with people at Yoast is lots of standardisation to ensure that a search engine can verify who was the first to have published specific information. As a result, being a small publisher matters again. Because you can proof that you were first in an open source way. That is mind-blowing to me.”

How did you then get started with WordProof then?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “I made the prototype of WordProof myself. I am not a great developer, but I am a good enough developer. I am good at ideation. I thought: I need to make a prototype to show that it is possible what I want. And by the end of 2018 I found out: Ok, it is possible to make a smart contract and combine it with time-stamping. We then started to build a team. For the first half of 2019, we presented at the largest WordPress conference. This is how Wordproof as a company kickstarted. By the end of 2019, we onboarded a news title of the biggest Dutch publisher, the Pers Group. A few months back we added NRC, which is the biggest how-brow media company in the Netherlands. That’s how it got started since 2018.”

“Today, 2 out of 3 large publishers in the Netherlands are using WordProof”

So, from early on you found some customers for the solution in your country?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: Yes. I think the home market is super important. This is why we invested quite some time to educate potential clients about our solution. Today, 2 out of 3 large publishers in the Netherlands are using WordProof: NRC and DPG Media.

How did you get funding for your idea?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: We did a few things. One of them is as an agency. When I created the prototype we decided: OK, we will invest as an agency one full year of my time to develop this idea. In addition, that is good advice for everyone wanting to get started on an idea: Some blockchains offer money for proposal work. So, we got 20,000 US-Dollar from a “Work on proposal” fund in the Blockchain space.

Can you talk about that specific funding option a bit more? And what the next funding step then?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: Yes, in a lot of Blockchain communities there are ways to get *some* funding, a few thousand Euros, a few hundred – simply to get you started. It’s my firm belief that as a founder you always need to be able to program at least the prototype. Otherwise, you are totally dependent on other people and that’s not going to work. Then we found a kind of angel investor.

So it’s not just a technology thing, it is not just a media thing, it is not just a politics thing or economy thing. It’s a total sum of all. So I onboarded someone who is the total opposite of me. Frank is his name, and he helped us with an initial investment. It’s great to have him on board, he is a former politician, so we have political thinking in the company.

“175 applications 23 finalists, 40 countries. And we got the highest possible rank there: 29,5 out of 30 points.”

Then we participated in a competition by the European Commission, organised by NGI – the “blockchains for social good”-competition. This was super-cool: 175 applications 23 finalists, 40 countries. And we got the highest possible rank there: 29,5 out of 30 points. We joined the competition with the idea – OK, we were not sure, if we would win. But at least we had our plans on paper after that competition. We did not work with an outside team or an agency on that. We decided to write entirely by ourselves. With our team we invested 500 to 600 hours to write a proposal from A-Z, not leaving any stone unturned. That paid off. Firstly because this helped to structure our thoughts and get the whole company on paper. Secondly, because we won the prize. And finally, the recognition was superb. The funny thing was: There was no category for what we were doing. There were categories for ideas in the areas of logistics, banking, and so on – there were five categories, but they designed a new category for us, after our application which they called “quality content”. Content as a category was initially not planned when they designed the competition. That is the shift we see now, from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe. It is a lot more towards content. H2020 was about data and privacy, and now it is shifting towards trust.”

Why did the idea for WordProof not come out of Silicon Valley, but out of Europe?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: Because we as Europeans care about a better internet. This is why in 2012 we came up with the idea of GDPR, to protect the rights of our citizens, to make the internet a better place. We as Europeans deeply care about that.

How big is the team you are working with right now?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “Our team has about eight full-time people now. And, while I don’t know for sure, in a year from now the team size could easily be doubled.”

What are you offering to small and large users?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “I think the ability to proof your integrity should not be a luxury, it is a human right. There will always be a free plan and also a paid plan. Today almost 1000 sites are using WordProof. Some publishers do over 10,000 articles a month, they use our paid service to make sure that we organise all the stuff in the background for them. The verification of a timestamp is always, from A to Z, a fully open-source process. So there is no trust in WordProof needed. So, we have two organizations: WordProof, the time-stamps company and The Trusted Web Foundation, where I am a chairman.  We provide a huge amount of educational information about timestamps through The Trusted Web foundation.”

“Any information can be published on the internet, but before information can go viral, it must have a certain level of accountability, which is a step in the right direction for solving misinformation and fake news.”

What was the biggest barrier to overcome for more trustable content?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: It is a hard question and an easy question at the same time. For example, The biggest benefit is for the end-user. But the one who needs to integrate the time-stamp and who needs to pay for it is the publisher. So, it is hard to align all stakeholders. That’s why we work together with search engines and social media platforms. This is very important. First, we educate search engines and social media companies that they should attribute value to timestamps. The more transparency you show, the higher you rank. The more accountability you take as a sender of information the higher they rank you. Any information can be published on the internet, but before information can go viral, it must have a certain level of accountability, which is a step in the right direction for solving misinformation and fake news. Our opinion is that there should always be freedom of speech, but not automatically and necessarily freedom of reach. There is a lot at stake there, there is a lot of education to be done for publishers, policymakers and search engines and social media. But that is why we founded The Trusted Web Foundation. There is a whole page about a variety of topics on the website of The Trusted Web.”

When do you expect media organisations to start using this technology?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “There are three or even four use cases where timestamps make sense for media companies. Structured data helps search engines. Timestamps are published as structured data. For example: To reduce search engine fraud by false dates (by simply updating the content to a more recent date). Levelling the playing field through timestamps: The example would be when a small and a big publisher publish similar content. With the timestamp, the smaller site can show when the content was published to the search engine. There are three or four major issues that could be solved by time-stamps.”

“As of early 2021 we are at a number of about three million time-stamps for articles. Over the coming months, this will go up to 10 million and later 100 million.”

How has the usage of timestamps evolved since WordProof started?

Sebastiaan van der Lans:  “As of early 2021 we are at a number of about three million time-stamps for articles. Over the coming months, this will go up to 10 million and later 100 million. From that moment search engines can not ignore this data as an element of ranking. We are to announce that a first engine will support this format. It is a small engine, but it is an important step. “

Do you think this is an opportunity for the EU? Do you get enough support for your idea, do you find open doors?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “We are part of a lot of round tables by the European Commission initiatives. Standardisation is key. The ISO workgroups we are part of. There are several “future of media initiatives” we are part of. Together with the publisher organisation WAN-IFRA, we are members there. I was a keynote speaker there two weeks ago. We are actively involved in media and blockchain roundtables, too.”

Why did no one think of time-stamps so far?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: “The technology of blockchain is rapidly evolving. Blockchain was invented 30 years ago, in 1991 for proofing the integrity of information. So it took quite some time. But blockchains were slow, blockchains were expensive. And the problems were not worth thinking of on the internet. So the technology was not ready, and we were not fully aware of how broken the internet is. During the last decade, we learned how broken it is, especially with COVID-19 we saw it in action. Misinformation literally costs lives. So the timing was right, both from a technology perspective and from a social perspective. Technology was not ready, society was not ready. So the time is right now. “

“WordProof is not a copyright tool”

Are you aware of similar approaches in other regions of the world?

Sebastiaan van der Lans: There are a lot of initiatives to do notarization of documents, to do copyright protection, to do search engine optimisation. WordProof is not a copyright tool, we are not just an SEO tool, we not just an integrity tool. It is a combination of all. Some building blocks. For example, there is a social network, a new one, which is called Voice.com. This new social network is really focused: Everyone there is verified. So it is only about humans. That is very interesting, but the extent of the community is limited. What we aim to do with WordProof is to make trust part of the DNA of the whole internet. And I love how for example NGI and the EU projects are all working on the trust use case. For example, search engine rankings are a result of trust. To what amount do I trust that website and put it higher in the ranks? There is not an initiative working on exactly the same. But there are a lot more organisations with an aligned mission and I like to see all of those.”

Thank you for the interview.

https://wordproof.com

WordProof: How timestamps for content enable a trustable web

WordProof: How timestamps for content enable a trustable web

Key points:

  • WordProof is a start-up enabling easy timestamps for content, then stores that info on a blockchain
  • Timestamps are a potential game-changer for verification, ownership of content and search results and on social media
  • Integrations are currently available for WordPress, Shopify and via an API
  • The start-up from Amsterdam received some financial support from the EU and other sources

Introducing something new

In June 2019 the Dutch developer and entrepreneur Sebastiaan van der Lans entered the stage of WordCamp Europe in Berlin to talk about something new. The title of his talk was: “From WordPress to Blockchain: The future is 100% open source”. Thirty minutes later he received a standing ovation from an audience of roughly 2,500 WordPress developers.  Why? Van der Lans took the audience on a journey from the past to the future. He started with the general benefits of the internet for everyone, then moved on to talk about the benefits of open source, where value is created for everyone. 

Sebastiaan van der Lans, Founder WordProof.io. Photo: Bob Bronshoff, 2000.

Van der Lans is a strong advocate for open source, because of positive experiences. He is the founder of a web agency and has years of experience. For example, he and his team created a GDPR plug-in, which became very popular. While this project did not generate any direct revenue, the success created tangible benefits for the team and the company. 

From publishing to finance to general business the talk advocated a vision of inclusion and fair distribution. WordPress itself is a good example. The software is open-source, it can be self-hosted and used for free. It has become the most popular Content Management System (CMS) worldwide, with a share of 40%, far ahead of commercial platforms. That share of usage has increased in the past years, despite fierce competition in this field.

Blockchain and decentralized communities

But then the presentation took a turn to yet another topic: Sebastiaan talked about blockchain. About decentralized versus centralized organisations. Blockchain is an enabler of new business models and could be a push forward, specifically in the field of content and creative services. A key reason: With blockchain, it is possible to exchange value without middlemen. Only at the very end of the talk, he introduced where opensource, new models and blockchain were all incorporated: The concept of timestamps for content. The presentation received a standing ovation.

Screenshot: Introduction of WordProof at WordCamp 2019

A screenshot from the presentation where WordProof was introduced the first time

What is a timestamp?

Essentially, a timestamp is simple. It’s a record of the time and day when a piece of content was published. Based on this information a hash is generated, comparable to a fingerprint. This hash is then stored in a blockchain. As a result, the origin of the content can be verified and that the stated information is correct. It can be trusted because blockchain records are trustable. When the content is changed, the timestamp is updated, creating a transparent record of the content creation process. This way there is a record that can be checked.

It is a simple addition, but there are a number of benefits – for content origin, for ownership and specifically for search: 

  • Firstly, with a timestamp, a publisher can present proof that the content is original. Everyday content, such as articles, photos, videos is used without permission. So far, there is no real handle to fight this. With timestamps, publishers have a way to legally fight such practices. Securing against unauthorized content use does not have to be all commercial, it can be applied to secure creative commons assets as well. 
  • Secondly, a timestamp provides a way to determine who published something first. In the news and information business, the time of publication is an important factor. Being first and not just copying content distinguishes one organization from the other.
  • Thirdly, with timestamps search could be become considerably better. So far it is relatively easy to trick a search engine. For example, old content can appear as new content if the publishing data is changed. While Google and Co. of course have ways to detect some fraud, it is an ongoing arms race. Determining original quality content is costly. Timestamps could make it much easier to find good information. This could result in a profound change. Once search engines start to consider verified timestamps as a mark of quality, many dynamics of content publishing could change.

Content publishing without timestamps is comparable to cars without registration plates

Why would timestamps be such an important change? For comparison: Just imagine a world where cars were introduced a couple of years ago and are now wildly popular. People enjoy the freedom of being able to go anywhere in a short time. But, in this world, number plates were not invented. When an accident happens, resulting in either a small scratch or injured passengers, it would be almost impossible to identify the cars (and the drivers) involved in the incident. There would be an incentive to hide your identity. There would be no insurance.

What the example shows is this: Sometimes little additions define the characteristics of an entire system. For content, publishing timestamps could be that addition, the missing element which changes many aspects for the better. Since the introduction of the internet, we have witnessed a revolution in how anyone can publish information. We moved from a world where finding certain information would result in spending days or even weeks in a library to getting instant access. Positive again. This is very positive.

But without content data that can be verified, the entire system can be tricked by a few bad actors. Adding verifiable data could change this. Search is a business generating billions of Euros. With timestamps, great content could gain more value in many ways. The good stuff could be displayed on top of searches, there could be models to support authors. This is why timestamps are so interesting. Adding verifiable information in an easy way would help to fight misinformation without making publishing too complex.

How to use the WordProof plugin

Timestamps could be for digital content was number plates are for cars. How difficult is it to install and use this system? First, search for Wordproof in the plug-in section of WordPress. The installation is simple, no blockchain experience needed. One needs to register on WordProof.io for an account. Articles will then automatically get a timestamp. When the content is changed or updated, the timestamp is updated as well. As an option, the timestamp can be displayed along with the content. 

Video: Installing WordProof in less than 5 minutes

Steps for the installation

The first step for the installation is to install the WordProof plugin in WordPress. Then the website needs to be registered on WordProof. The set-up is guided and simple, there is no prior knowledge of blockchain needed. Once everything is done all articles will be timestamped and additional information can be displayed under the content. Below is the information which would be shown if the link is opened.

A timestamp of an article showing information when the article was published

 

A timestamp of an article, showing information when the content was published.

What does it cost?

To try it out Wordproof.io offers a free tier, which covers 10 timestamps per month. For websites with a more frequent publication, the pricing ranges between 10 and 40 Euro per month. The biggest standard package available covers 1500 timestamps per month on ten different websites and there’s an API available for large users. Some publishers timestamp over 10000 articles a month

The idea of incurring extra costs for authentication and verifications of content will be a barrier forfor adoption.  But, as the example with the number plates for cars tried to show: Paying a small amount for trustable content might be a very good investment. 

Timestamps to fight misinformation and copyright infringement

Given the problems with misinformation, many media companies should be interested in timestamps. But it might take time towards broad acceptance. Given how easy it is to publish fabricated content there is a latent demand by quality news providers to differentiate reliable information. Search engines need to wake up and start considering timestamps as a mark of quality and a reason to rank such content higher.  

Smaller websites should consider using Wordproof, specifically if they publish original content. Paid plans of Wordproof comes with a tool to fight copyright infringements. For larger media companies timestamps are making sense even now. Being able to verify content is a quality in demand. Once search engines start to consider timestamps as an element of ranking, the trend to timestamp content could become the standard, in a relatively short time. 

And there is a big driver towards change in the content world. If falsified content is not a motivation, ad fraud should be. Around the world, there is a whole shadow industry aiming to trick search engines and digital ad networks. Ad fraud is estimated at 40 billion US-Dollar per year. In 2023 the amount per year could reach 100 billion. 

WordProof as a startup

WordProof has done well working on the idea of timestamps. The company started with small funds in 2019. Then, in June 2020 the team won the amount of one million Euro in a contest of the European Commission. The idea for timestamps came out first in the pan-European competition “Blockchains for social good”. WordProof managed to win in a field of 175 entries

Dutch news publishers as first customers

The company has won a number of customers. Dutch news publisher NRC for example is using the timestamps for business content. The company uses up to 10.000 timestamps per month, in order to enhance Search Engine results over time. According to WordProof implementation of the system took just four hoursBut there are additional use cases, too. Amsterdam Vintage Watches for example uses blockchain and timestamps to ensure the identity, authenticity and ownership of expensive watches. 

The Trusted Web Foundation provides background and education

To help with educating users and organizations the team behind WordProof founded The Trusted Web Foundation in 2020. The idea is to have an entity ”that educates, empowers, and accelerates all stakeholders of the internet to land a vision and operationalize timestamping; from consumers to governments, from publishers to policymaker, and from e-commerce platforms to advertisers and media buyers.”

Search engine cooperation announced in 2021

In May 2021 Wordproof.io announced the first partnership with a search engine. A startup called Presearch will incorporate timestamps in search results. Users can easily see the information, even before clicking on content. Presearch is a new and relatively small search offering. But this is a start. The startup currently has 1,5 million registered users. Not many related to the market leader, but more than enough for meaningful tests for timestamps. 

Outlook

It will take time for the idea of timestamps to evolve further. But the concept has all the potential to become a mark of quality. In a not too far away future people could see better search results. Once that becomes more common the switch could be fast. Producers of quality content get a number of benefits from this.

It’s a plus that this initiative towards the trusted web is started by a company deeply rooted in the open-source ecosystem. By combining open source and blockchain technologies effective ways to bring back trust to the internet are in the making. It is positive, too, that the approach is supported with European funds. 

 This article is the first one published by TruBlo using a timestamp. The information is displayed below.

Links:

Introduction to the trusted web (in two minutes)

The Trusted Web Education

Search Engines and Timestamps

To fight misinformation,  the “Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity” (C2PA) wants to develop technical standards

To fight misinformation, the “Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity” (C2PA) wants to develop technical standards

In February 2021 the “Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity” (C2PA) combined and consolidated the efforts of two projects with similar goals. On one side “Project Origin”, founded in 2020 by Microsoft, BBC, The New York Times and CBC/Radio-Canada.
On the other side a group by the name of “Content Authenticity Initiative”, founded by Adobe. In the new, larger group more members are represented, including the chip-makers Arm and Intel. TruePic, a startup with interesting technology in this space is a member, too.
What all the participants have in common is this: To develop standards and tools for reliable content provenance. This would include certifying the source, the origin and the history of content elements. But, it is not an attempt to re-create DRM (Digital Rights Management).

Today falsifying content is easy

So far, content that is accessible on the internet can be intentionally falsified, easily.

  • Tricking search engines: From false claims to falsified sources to sloppy or falsified metadata. For example a low level, but common approach to content fraud is to simply change the publishing date. Search engines are good at finding content, but all search platforms are challenged by falsified data and information.
  • No restrictions in Content Management Systems: For the sake of convenience, almost all currently used Content Management Systems do not impose strict guidelines nor checks for copyrights or whether the publishing data is correct.

In earlier communication the group behind Project Origin stated the goal: “Having a provable source of origin for media, and knowing that the content had not tampered with en-route, will help to maintain confidence in news from trusted providers”.

Technical demonstrators so far

How do they want to get there? So far the concepts are demonstrators or software in beta. Technically, the idea is to define an “end-to-end process for the publishing, distribution and presentation of provenance enhanced media”. Provenance is of course the key here. It means that added information should enable to trace down where the content came from and whether what is presented is actually the version that was published at the origin. Provenance information will be added no only to text-based media but also to audio, video and images.

In September 2020 the project origin published a short video, which narrated the motivation as well as the early proof-of-concept models. Key goals are to confirm the identity of the publisher and to ensure that the content has not been tampered with. This applies to the visible editorial parts, but also to metadata which might not be directly visible, but is used for example by search engines to rank the content. It is common for misinformation to change dates, for example, to make old content look “new” again.

Two videos, one from Project Origin, the other from the Adobe-led Content Authenticity Initiative show the intentions and goals.

Project Origin (2020)

Source: BBC

Content Authenticity Initiative: Vision

Searching for a standard

As of spring 2021, there is a common goal and specific roles for the different partners.  “Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity” (C2PA) aims to advocate and find support for an open standard. At the same time the different technology companies work on their individual solutions:

  • Adobe is working on an attribution tool, which could be added to Photoshop and other Adobe packages.
  • TruePic, a start-up from San Diego in the US, could have the most innovative. The company has developed software specifically to enhance and enrich content enabling checks of its integrity.
  • Microsoft describes the current approaches on a dedicated innovation website.
  • It is notable that Google is missing from the members, so far. The same is true for Apple and Facebook.
    It might be that if all the big tech and content companies would join finding a compromise would become almost impossible. Instead, that is the assumption, the smaller, current group firstly wants to develop early suggestions and ideas.

Demos from Microsoft

Microsoft specifically has the most details yet how Project Origin could work. The company discusses current ideas on a webpage of the innovation department. They christened the technical approach AMP (Authentication of Media via Provenance).

Search for standard might take years

  • Agreeing on standards, specifically, might take years. While misinformation and content used for propaganda in many parts of the world are pressing problems. Finding common ground will depend on many details – and take time, specifically when there is a need for an agreed-upon technical standard, which is accepted worldwide.
  • One thing that is notable: All three projects and the entire coalition do not commit to a specific blockchain technology to store the information. It appears that the question is currently avoided – there might or might not blockchain tech in the backend.
  • Another problem is to find a technology that gets accepted by users and does not make media production more complicated. Adding metadata is a notoriously skipped activity in many fields of content production.

More info:

Microsoft Innovation: Exploring Project Origin
https://innovation.microsoft.com/en-us/exploring-project-origin

Microsoft Innovation: Technical explanation and demo
Deep Dive: Technical explanation of Project AMP’s components including a demo based on the paper
AMP: Authentication of Media via Provenance.

Adobe brings its misinformation-fighting content attribution tool to the Photoshop beta
https://techcrunch.com/2020/10/20/adobe-cai-photoshop-beta-misinformation/

Open Call #1: Slides and video recording of the webinar

Open Call #1: Slides and video recording of the webinar

Below please find a video recording and – as a separate file – the presentation used in the webinar. The goal was to inform participants in the call about important aspects. The topics covered ranged from how to apply to what TruBlo offers in terms of support for selected projects. The event took place on February 24, 2021.

Video Recording

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We understand that even though there are documents and this presentation some questions might still be open. In such cases: Get in touch via e-mail or Twitter or LinkedIn, there are different ways. We will get back to you and aim to support your application.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 

Serelay: Start taking verifiable, trustable photos with your mobile phone today

Serelay: Start taking verifiable, trustable photos with your mobile phone today

 

 

Our brain can process visual images in as little as 13 milliseconds. A glance is all it takes. Based on the intake, our brain starts to process the information. This outstanding ability is part of the problem: Our way of processing images means that manipulated visuals have a big impact. We see something, we notice it. It is easy to do damage, but difficult to correct the impression we got.

A need for better verifiable visual content

And this, particularly, is why there is such a strong need to have better tools to verify visual content. The rise of manipulated content has many reasons. Two are most important: Firstly, there are tools enabling almost undetectable visual manipulation. Many of these tools have been developed for photo and video artists, from advertising to film making in Hollywood. But these advanced technologies can be used to create misinformation, too.

Secondly, the standards for uploading visual content are still low. Everyone with a mobile phone can take a screenshot, upload it to a social media platform and claim whatever they like. False rumours combined with emotion can have similar effects as propaganda. Many content management platforms allow the uploading of photos or videos without demanding data as to the copyright of the material or other information. This missing info makes it even harder for fact-checkers to determine the correctness of the material.  

A smart approach towards verifiable visuals

This is where Serelay,  a startup from the UK, comes in: The company offers a way to enable the creation of verifiable photos that is effective and can be used right away. The approach does not affect the user’s privacy. All you have to do is to download the Serelay app. Located in Oxford, the company has created a full circle solution to enable verifiable information. The process works with both photos and videos.

Data points added to a photo at the moment of capture

But how does this work? Serelay has pioneered a process described as “trusted media capture”.  The software records between 300 and 500 data points to an image at the moment when it is captured. These data points are then linked to the media item. This added information is compressed, to be less than 15kb per capture. This is important, given the number of pictures taken. With 15kb there is minimal mobile bandwidth needed. The battery of a mobile device is not considerably drained. 

While the technology is complex, using it is very simple. As a user download and install the Serelay apps and then start taking photos with highly extended verification options.

And another, important aspect: While the additional data can be used to verify the photo, there is no information stored about the user. Serelay provides higher transparency for the media item, but without exposing the photo creator in unwanted ways.

Enabling verification in under 30 seconds

Taking photos is one side of the coin, being able to verify such material is the other: Serelay says that any photo or video captured can be queried for authenticity in under 30 seconds, by running it through software. The analysis can spot whether even one pixel or video frame has changed.

Screenshot of Serelay software features

The Serelay software enables to add and later check multiple data points of a photo for verification. This includes 3D detection (to ensure the photo is not just a screenshot), the location and the time the image was taken. Source: Serelay.

Example: Where was the photo taken?

The Serelay software can determine, too, whether the photo was taken outside (“in a valid 3D event”). This can help to determine that the image is not just a screenshot taken on a laptop. The software further validates time and location, using real-time third-party datasets. An algorithm developed by Serelay will further check for anomalies. The verification software can be accessed through a user interface. For media organisations and others having to verify many such visuals, there is an option to automate the process through APIs. The Serelay documentation can be found here.

Interview with the Founder

We talked to Roy Azoulay, founder and executive director of Serelay

Roy Azoulay, Serelay

Q: What is your background?

Roy Azoulay: “I come from a physics and computer science background, I spent the start of my career as a software engineer and team leader. I then completed an MBA at the University of Oxford and following this ended up setting up and running a successful startup incubator for the university.”

Q: Can you describe what Serelay offers?

“Serelay believes that photos and videos should be captured in a way that is inherently verifiable. Serelay captured photos and videos can be queried for the authenticity of content, time and location, quickly conclusively and at scale.”

Q: How did you get to this point in development with Serelay? How did it evolve?

“We developed our initial concept with funding from Google through it’s Digital News Initiative Fund and with support from the European Space Agency. Then, after almost a year of testing and tightening so that the technology could comply with the toughest data protection regulations and the highest journalistic standards in the world, we deployed our solution with one of the world’s most reputable news media organisations, the newspaper The Guardian in the UK. This was a landmark collaboration. In our original design, Serelay compliant photos needed to be captured either by a Serelay camera app, or our SDK embedded in a third-party app with camera functionality. We have recently launched a new architecture called ‘React’ which enables the creation of Serelay-compliant photos, using a mobile device’s stock camera app.”

Q: How important is the use of blockchain?

“We do not use blockchain at the moment as we are happy to collaborate with partners in the space. While we can certainly see the value of recording origin metadata on an immutable ledger, a blockchain implementation also introduces complexity – for example, we currently give users the option to delete all of their photos’ metadata from our database in just a few clicks, in a different scenario –  we may retroactively revoke the veracity credentials of a certain phone model or operating system version where a security vulnerability is uncovered. These matters require a carefully designed blockchain implementation, possibly with different implementation architectures for different use cases. We see ourselves as a technology partner for such implementations, it is unlikely we will do one in-house.”

Q: What are the next steps to establish this technology for wider use? Are you already working with media or other organisations?

“I mentioned our work with The Guardian. We will also unveil a collaboration with a global software giant in March 2021.”

Q: What is your take on the future of trustable content?

“I believe it is in the metadata. A common language to communicate content authenticity and the capability to immutably embed it in a media file can have far-reaching effects. The Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI)  led by Adobe is doing just that.” (Editors note: See info about the CAI below.)

Q: What is the next step for Serelay?

“Our next step will be to add immutable origin metadata, compliant with the emerging CAI standard, to our existing product line.”

What are the options to use Serelay?

“Serelay offers two free apps which add verification data to photos taken with mobile phones, for Android and Apple phones. They differ in terms of integration.”

Thank You for the interview.


Download options: 

  • Serelay Idem enables capturing verifiable photos and videos, through Serelay’s own camera app. To install the app there is no registration needed, to ensure that the privacy of the user is kept. For verification, the app will rely on nearby Wifi signals and other data points. Download: https://www.serelay.com/our-products/idem/
  • Serelay React does the same, but can directly use the stock camera of the device. Users install the app once and every photo/video they snap on their stock camera is ‘synched’ by React for content, time and location verifiability. How it works is described on the Download page.

Available SDKs enable a further extension of the functionalities to third party apps. Using the Idem SDK companies can add in-app Trusted Media Capture™. The React SDK enables even deeper integration to any photo or video taken with the camera on the device, so there is no need for the user to firstly open the Serelay photo app.


Info: What is the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI)?

The initiative was started in 2019 by Adobe, The New York Times Company and Twitter.  By now, several additional companies have joined the group. The goal is to create an accepted standard of how to enable trustable content. The initiative identified detection, education and better ways for attribution as key goals towards better handling of content.
Quote from the website: “The Content Authenticity Initiative is building a system to provide provenance and history for digital media, giving creators a tool to claim authorship and empowering consumers to evaluate whether what they are seeing is trustworthy.” Link

More information:

MIT News: In the blink of an eye

Forbes:  “Fake-News Makers, Beware: This Firm Claims It Can Oust A Photo With One Fake Pixel”

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Correction note: An earlier version of the article described Roy Azoulay as “founder and CEO”. This has been corrected, he is the “founder and executive director” of the company. 

The initiative was started in 2019 by Adobe, The New York Times Company and Twitter By now, several additional companies have joined the group. The goal is to create an accepted standard of how to enable trustable content. The initiative identified detection, education and better ways for attribution as key goals towards better handling of content.
Quote from the website: “The Content Authenticity Initiative is building a system to provide provenance and history for digital media, giving creators a tool to claim authorship and empowering consumers to evaluate whether what they are seeing is trustworthy.” Link

More information:

MIT News: In the blink of an eye

Forbes:  “Fake-News Makers, Beware: This Firm Claims It Can Oust A Photo With One Fake Pixel”

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Correction note: An earlier version of the article described Roy Azoulay as “founder and CEO”. This has been corrected, he is the “founder and executive director” of the company.