written by
Christoph Kull
Christoph Kull
Global Trends

Building trust online, the Adobe way

Building trust online, the Adobe way

How do we ensure that the content we publish online remains pure and unchanged? We can’t, says Christoph Kull, Vice President & Managing Director Central Europe at Adobe, but the least we can do is be transparent about any changes. We ask the Adobe VP about the company’s new Content Authenticity Initiative, building trust online and how content attribution helps marketers.

In November 2019, Adobe joined the New York Times Company and Twitter to launch the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI). Can you give us some details about this initiative?

In our increasingly digitalised world content and information is being developed and published faster than ever before, yet there is a lack of transparency and people feel misled if they don’t know who is altering content or what is being changed. We want to develop an industry standard for digital content attribution where people know exactly who has altered content and how. In doing so, we aim to strengthen trust between those who put out information and publish content and their audiences. We as a partnership have a shared responsibility to rectify this - Adobe from the world of moving images and pictures, New York Times from the media and Twitter from the world of the platform providers. We believe that joining forces will accelerate progress.

What are the objectives of the CAI? Who will benefit from it?

Both publisher and audience will benefit. The audience because they can see a clear history of any changes to the content they are consuming. The publisher because the CAI shows their audience that publishers are behaving in an open and transparent way. Let’s be clear, we are not aiming to prevent any contents being edited; on the contrary sometimes this is desired and necessary. We just believe changes should be clear and transparent for the end consumer.

Your aim is to ensure that every company can implement this digital attribution to its contents. What would that look like?

We are still working on how the final system will look but broadly each content file (a picture or video) would have a caption in a protected area where one could view the attribution identifying the content’s originator and a history of changes. A good example at the moment would be a photographer who takes a picture of an important political event. Perhaps the light wasn’t very strong when the picture was taken and someone subsequently edits the photo to improve this. This change would be documented and would give someone viewing the picture the assurance that, even though the picture has been edited, the change was made to improve the experience for the viewer and not change the any key features. We felt a particular responsibility in this regard as the vast majority of pictures and videos are edited by Adobe products.

How relevant is the topic for other business areas outside publishing?

Extremely so. In marketing, for example, where photos are used to advertise products. The end customer wants the security of knowing how far the pictures they rely on when making a buying decision have been edited. By being transparent about this process you are building a closer trusted relationship with the customer. And at the end of the day more customers are willing to share their valuable first party data with brands they are in trusted relationships with. Today, the boundaries between communicator and recipient are blurred, they enter into a reciprocal relationship, especially with regard to user-generated content campaigns. Everyone has a story to tell as we say at Adobe and here brands also need to trust the content they are receiving from their customers. It works both ways.

We live in times of viral fake news, hate speech and misinformation. Why is an industry standard for digital content attribution so important?

Fake news has many causes and content attribution and greater transparency is certainly part of the solution. By allowing the reader or viewer to really understand where the content originated and how it has been changed over time they can clearly see how authentic it is. An alliance of responsible people is needed here to ensure that effective remedial action can be taken. On the part of the creatives, the media houses and platforms, but of course also on the part of the users. Attribution is only one part of the solution. Media competence and a responsible and respectful approach also play an important role.

According to Adobe, online trust is based on three pillars: Education, recognition, and attribution. How do you plan to address the first two pillars?

In terms of education, we always want to promote online trust and we are committed to education efforts to help consumers better understand and evaluate digital media. This month we also released our tenth annual Adobe Digital Trends 2020 report to capture key trends in digital marketing  and initiative partners will work together to improve consumers’ media literacy awareness and skills. In terms of recognition, we have developed a technological prototype called About Face which can tell if a picture is fake or not with the help of artificial intelligence. The prototype can detect even the smallest changes, and can even undo them and restore the picture to its original state. We are using our knowledge in the field of picture editing to search out fake contents and ultimately do good for society.