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Ensuring the Integrity of Taiwan’s 2024 Election: The Blockchain and Decentralized Archiving

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Ensuring the Integrity of Taiwan’s 2024 Election: The Blockchain and Decentralized Archiving

2024 is the first election year with wide adoption of AI. The Taiwan 2024 election project aims to rebuild digital trust by addressing the challenges of disinformation and fake news through media verification and preservation.

Leveraging blockchain technology, the initiative, led by Numbers Protocol in collaboration with the Starling Lab, Taiwanese news outlets, and journalists assigns unique digital identities to images and videos to ensure their authenticity and immutability. This approach enhances public confidence in media reporting by documenting the presidential election’s key moments with traceable and secure data, thereby countering misinformation in the politically and geopolitically sensitive context of Taiwan.

This article provides technical details for any developer interested in creating a similar project. For more information about the Taiwan 2024 election project, please visit the project’s website at Taiwan 2024.

Why Blockchain?

The technical flow of the Taiwan 2024 election project builds off of other projects Numbers Protocol collaborated on with Starling Lab, including 78 Days, The DJ And The War Crimes, and Cryptographic Submission of Evidence of War Crimes in Ukraine(Project Dokaz). You may notice that one key difference between these innovative projects and traditional archive projects is the adoption of blockchain. Before going further, the first question we need to address is why blockchain is necessary.

There are already many metadata standards that help establish the provenance of digital media such as IPTC and C2PA, and they all have value. However, blockchain registration provides additional advantages, making sure the content history records are immutable and transparent and can be connected to the broader Web3 ecosystem. Once a transaction is written to the blockchain, it cannot be altered or deleted. This immutability guarantees the permanent accessibility of records, ensuring data remains untampered.

Products Used By This Project

Numbers Protocol builds a provenance infrastructure compliant with IPTC and C2PA. The products include an SDK to help developers quickly adopt the provenance standards. We have the Capture Cam, which you can easily download from the App Store or Google Play. It is a mobile tool that can help users take photos with integrity assured. The Capture Dashboard also allows content owners to manage content and its metadata with ease.

Technical Flow Overview

There are three main steps involved in the technical flow

  • Register content to the blockchain
  • Verify on-chain information via the Verify Engine or the information widget
  • Archive the project content in the decentralized storage using the Filecoin network to ensure long-term preservation of this collection.

Step 1: Register to Blockchain

Media outlets and journalists capture the images and videos from the election campaigns. The original file and their provenance metadata are uploaded via Dashboard (for individual journalists) or SDK (for mass uploads of the content files). The tools extract the decentralised content identifier (NID) from the original file. Thanks to the IPFS technology, the same content identifier is also the unique address of the content on the decentralised web. Once the NID is generated, the smart contract executes the “commit” function to take the NID and the provenance metadata and create a transaction on the blockchain.

Commit and ERC-7053

The “commit” function of the smart contract follows ERC-7053 (Ethereum Improvement Proposals) standard. Suppose you are familiar with the development tool Git, similar to the updating of source code. In that case, ERC-7053 allows you to do the same thing to update the metadata of content by linking multiple metadata to the same content ID. Just like Git commits. These commits can happen on the same blockchain or different blockchains. As long as they all follow 7053, you can use the content ID to query and get the full content history. In the Taiwan 2024 election project, all records are registered to the EVM-compatible Numbers Mainnet.

Civic Participation

Another inspiring aspect of this project is the embrace of civic engagement. We all know the important role that authentic voices and perspectives from people play in elections. However, distinguishing real human contributions from AI-generated deepfakes presents a significant challenge and reduces trust in the internet. In the Taiwan 2024 election project, we introduced the Capture Cam technology, facilitating the contribution of verified media by the general public.

Capture Cam, accessible on both Android and iOS platforms, simplifies the process of capturing and blockchain-registering photos and videos through a user-friendly interface. The secure signature for the content metadata is generated right after the photo is taken and sealed onto the blockchain. This allows users to easily record media with a tap and make basic edits before blockchain registration, thus maintaining the content’s authenticity and integrity.

The content uploaded by the general public is listed in the “Civic Participation” tab on the project website. One user used Capture Cam to record the election counting process at the polling station, which gave the polling station a permanent record of the counting process on the blockchain. More details of the Capture Cam can be found here.

Provenance and metadata are only useful if they can be verified. In the following paragraphs, I will focus on the verification pipeline.

Verification Pipeline

When images are shared across social media, they are often cropped, compressed, or modified. By visiting the Numbers Verify Engine and uploading the content, the AI compares it against existing images, highlighting the matched content. Clicking the matched content (or any similar ones that AI found), the Verify Engine will navigate you to the asset profile (explained below) of the content. This verification process is akin to a digital fingerprint, ensuring your content’s uniqueness and legitimacy.

Asset Profile

Once uploaded, content can be verified through Numbers Protocol’s AI-powered engine. Each piece of content on Capture has its profile, displaying comprehensive information similar to a LinkedIn profile or a company’s front page. This profile includes creator details, creation time and location, and a direct link to the blockchain transaction, ensuring transparency and trust in the digital realm.

In some cases, the media outlets and the journalists may want to display the content using the link on their social media or website in order to keep the content traffic. Asset Profile also supports the display of social media content, and here is an example from the Taiwan 2024 election project.

AssetTree files

As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the “commits” follow the ERC-7053 standard to ensure the traceability of the content history. In every blockchain transaction associated with the content, you can find the AssetTree file in the Metadata column. AssetTree files describe an asset’s properties, including its creator, creation time, license, and other relevant details.

When changes are made to an asset, a new Commit is created on the blockchain. This process also generates a new AssetTree file reflecting the updated state of the asset. The provenance area of the asset profile displays the merged AssetTree files from all commits. You may find more information about AssetTree in our developer documentation.

The usedBy field in the AssetTree is especially important to this project. It records how the content is used and may help the viewer of this asset profile explore more news related to the image or video.

Information Widgets (Capture Eye)

Another way to allow users to verify the provenance information is to install the information widgets on the website. Capture users can either choose C2PA Content Credentials pin or Capture Eye. Capture Eye is a simple HTML widget that can be installed on any website. It takes the content identifier (NID) as the input information. Once the user clicks the widget, the blockchain information is shown. This allows the media outlets to highlight the blockchain provenance on their website and to enhance the content authenticity.

Capture Eye not only displays on-chain information but also supports advanced features like direct license NFT purchases through a “COLLECT” button. This offers a streamlined approach for audiences to engage with and support authentic content directly from publishers’ websites and increases the publishers’ monetisation channels.

Final Archive

All the videos uploaded by media outlets, journalists and civic participants are packaged as zips with the content metadata and archived on the Filecoin network by Starling Lab. The decentralised storage like Filecoin to archive the Taiwan Election project content ensures long-term preservation and integrity. The decentralised and crypto-incentivized features of the Filecoin network offer a secure solution for storing data across multiple nodes globally, reducing risks of censorship and data loss. This strategy ensures that essential election content is preserved for extensive periods, promoting trust and reliability in digital archives.

In addition to the Filecoin archive, journalists also used a customized instance of Uwazi asset management system with a prototype of an Authenticated Attributes backend, developed by Starling Lab in the Taiwan 2024 election project to prototype a collaborative journalism investigation.

Uwazi is an open-source tool developed by HURIDOCS that is often used for collecting evidence or building an archive. Authenticated Attributes uses an authenticated database, alongside modern cryptography to enable individuals and groups to securely store and share media and metadata. The outcome is a tool that is useful for journalists and investigators to build a better understanding of events through collaboration. More details about the final archive and Uwazi will be shared in another blog.

New Digital Era with Content Provenance

Leveraging blockchain and decentralized storage technologies, the Taiwan Election project marks a significant step towards a future where the provenance and integrity of digital content are highly valued. This approach is crucial not only for combating misinformation but also for enabling news outlets and journalists to emphasize their brand values.

Similar technologies have been adopted in the Indonesian and Indian elections, and more election collaborations are coming, showcasing a global trend. This initiative emphasizes the importance of protecting electoral integrity and digital information. These approaches promise greater transparency, trust in election results, and a precedent for employing tech to uphold democratic principles and verify digital archives globally.

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