Why Every Company Should Care About Media Provenance + Content Credentials in the Age of AI

Everyone is trying to figure out what AI means for their industry, their business, and their future. If you're in the content creation realm, media provenance and the technical standards behind it are soon-to-be game changers.

Why Every Company Should Care About Media Provenance + Content Credentials in the Age of AI
Photo by Lucas Hoang / Unsplash

What is Media Provenance?

Media Provenance refers to the origin and authenticity of digital media. In a broader sense, "provenance" is a term traditionally used in the art and antiques world to describe the documented history of a particular item, helping to establish its authenticity, ownership, and value. In the context of digital media, this term has been adapted to indicate the source, journey, and integrity of digital content.

As we navigate an age abundant with information and content, there are increasing concerns about the authenticity of digital media, especially with the rise of deepfakes, manipulated content, and misinformation. Media provenance helps address these concerns by:

- Tracing the Origin: Just as you'd want to know the origin of a piece of artwork or an artifact, media provenance lets you trace back to how a piece of digital media was created or first sourced.

- Documenting Changes: It can record and account for any modifications or edits made to the content over time, ensuring that any changes are transparent and traceable.

- Validating Authenticity: By having a reliable record of origin and changes, media provenance can be used to validate that a piece of digital media is genuine and has not been maliciously altered.

What is C2PA?

The C2PA (Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity) is a joint initiative formed by several technology companies, industry specialists, and academic institutions. Their goal is to address the rising challenges associated with the authenticity of digital content. The C2PA was initiated by major technology companies Adobe, Arm, BBC, Intel, Microsoft, and Truepic. The primary objective of C2PA is to develop technical standards for ensuring the provenance (origin and history) of digital media. This is particularly important in an age where misinformation, deepfakes, and digitally manipulated content can be difficult to distinguish from genuine media.

The C2PA aims to create a universal, open standard for provenance, called "Content Credentials". This ensures that the solution can be widely adopted across different platforms and isn't tied to proprietary systems. The Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity recognized that tackling the challenges of digital media authenticity requires diverse expertise. The C2PA actively encourages collaboration and input from a wide range of industries like technology, media, and academia, ensuring a comprehensive approach.

The C2PA is committed to ensuring that the solutions they develop are privacy-preserving. This means that while the provenance and authenticity of content can be established, the individual privacy of creators and users remains protected. The C2PA works hand in hand with other initiatives and standards in the content authenticity domain. For instance, it builds upon the work of the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) and Project Origin, bringing their efforts into a unified approach under the C2PA.

The C2PA represents a concerted effort by major industry companies to restore trust in digital content. By developing the Content Credentials standard for verifying content authenticity and provenance, the C2PA hopes to combat misinformation and enhance transparency in the digital content ecosystem.

Reason 1: Trust is Eroding in the Age of AI
As artificial intelligence continues to grow and become more sophisticated, it brings with it a double-edged sword: the capability to create and the potential to deceive. The vast strides made in AI-powered tools, particularly in image and video synthesis, have made it remarkably easy to generate content that appears stunningly realistic, yet is entirely fabricated. Deepfakes, for instance, which use AI to superimpose images and videos onto source material, can craft eerily convincing videos of world leaders, celebrities, or even everyday individuals, saying or doing things they never did.

In a world inundated with such content, the line between reality and fabrication becomes increasingly blurred. Every video clip, every image, and every soundbite is met with skepticism. Did a politician truly make that controversial statement? Is that celebrity endorsement genuine or manipulated? Is the testimonial from a satisfied customer real or generated?

This climate of doubt has a cascading effect on the entire digital landscape. Companies are finding it harder to validate the authenticity of their advertisements, testimonials, and endorsements. What could be a genuine endorsement might be dismissed as fake, leading to wasted investments in marketing and advertising.

One false or manipulated piece of content can irreparably harm a brand's image. In the age of viral content, it takes mere hours for a fabricated video or misleading information to spread, leaving companies scrambling in damage control.

As the public becomes more aware of the capabilities of AI manipulations, there's a growing wariness towards all forms of digital content. Brands face the uphill battle of not just promoting their product but also proving the authenticity of their promotional materials.

Reason 2: Mistakes with Generative AI are Very Expensive
Many companies have started to leverage AI-powered tools to generate content. For instance, AI can be used to generate images for marketing materials or to create videos for advertisements. While these tools can be incredibly useful, they also come with the risk of generating content that is misleading or inaccurate.

For instance, a company might use AI to generate images or videos of their products for marketing materials. However, if the AI is not trained properly, it might generate media that is inaccurate or misleading. This could lead to customers purchasing products that don't match the media they saw in the marketing materials, leading to dissatisfaction and loss of trust.

Last year, a company called Wizards of the Coast received backlash due to AI-generated artwork in an upcoming book of theirs called "Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants". Fans of the product pointed out that aspects of the image appeared to be AI-generated, rather than human-created.

The artist took to Twitter to share screenshots of his original artwork and the enhancements that the AI generation added to defend his use. This only furthered the backlash, with fans wanting the artwork to be fully human-created. This led to a loss of trust in the company.

Reason 3: You Will Lose Customers to Perceived Trust
Trust plays a crucial role in customer retention and brand loyalty. Consumers have access to more options than any other time in history and values alignment and trust are two of the largest factors in their decision making process. The example above can feel relatively minor, after all, if the artist did most of the work and simply allowed the AI to enhance the image, what's the harm? The harm is that the customers were under the impression that the artwork was fully done by the artist, and discovering that AI was involved without disclosure, hurt their trust in the company.

Content Credentials put that chain of custody right into the media. The end user can see who created it, what changes were made, and when. This is a powerful tool for building trust with your audience. The origin and history of the media is right there for them to see.

If you're leveraging AI generated content, you should be sharing as much. Make it something that you let your customers in on, make it exciting, something that they follow along with. If you're using AI to generate content, you should be using Content Credentials to build trust with your audience.

As AI continues to reshape the business landscape, adapting and staying ahead of potential challenges is paramount. Media provenance and Content Credentials aren't just buzzwords – they're soon-to-be essentials in the age of AI-driven content. Don't be left behind; start planning now.

Not sure where to start? We're here to help. Our team has been working with coalition members since 2022 on applications and integrations. Get in touch and we will reach out!