‘Originator Profile’ Tech Gains Support Among Japanese News Media

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A presentation on Originator Profile technology is given on Friday during the 74th World News Media Congress held in Taipei.

Moves to realize the practical application of Originator Profile (OP), a digital technology that aims to ensure the reliability of data found in information spaces, have been accelerating.

By the end of last month, 27 corporations from the newspaper, television and advertising industries had joined the Originator Profile Collaborative Innovation Partnership (OPCIP), which was established last December. The OPCIP plans to start a trial to test and demonstrate the relevant technology this summer, to put it into practical use in 2025.

Worldwide interest

At the 74th World News Media Congress organized by the World Association of News Publishers, held in Taipei on June 28-30, a presentation on OP by Riichiro Maeki, managing editor of The Yomiuri Shimbun, drew much interest.

Kalle Jungkvist, a senior advisor to a Swedish media entity, commented that OP may serve as the basis of technology that will underpin the reliability of online information in the future.

OP is a technology that embeds an electronic identifier (or a marker) in each piece of information content, such as a news article distributed by news media on the internet, information posted on corporate websites, or advertisements, to certify the source of the information, thus proving the reliability of the information at a glance.

On the internet, there are some reliably endorsed news articles written on the basis of firsthand accounts of events or serious research into topics, but there are also articles containing false or extreme information, primarily intended to attract a high number of views. If OP becomes widely used, it will be easier to distinguish between genuine and false information.

Various media are paying close attention to this new technology.

Josh Quittner, CEO of Decrypt Media Inc., a U.S. company that provides news and information about emerging technologies, said at the congress that he would like to pay attention to how OP will be used in the future. He added that it would be highly desirable for this technology to become the specification used in global standards, expressing hope for its advancement and development.

Strong responses

The OPCIP was established by 11 newspapers, including The Yomiuri Shimbun, other news media, and advertising technology firms. It has 27 member companies and organizations so far. In June, the Nikkei Inc. joined the OPCIP, meaning that all of Japan’s national newspapers have become members. An OPCIP official said, “The response has been stronger than expected.”

Within the partnership, there were initially views that the hurdles in the way of promoting OP would be high. Some were concerned that the system was too complicated and that it would be difficult to foresee how it could become a reality as a business model.

However, once the initiative actually got started, a succession of inquiries came in from various sectors.

In conjunction with the Group of Seven Digital and Tech Ministers’ Meeting held in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, in April, the OPCIP held an exhibition to promote OP. One visitor to the exhibit commented, “Without technologies such as OP, we can’t feel comfortable letting our children use the internet.”

International standardization

In mid-June, the OPCIP development team held intensive discussions for two days in Tokyo. Researchers from Keio University and engineers from the private sector dealt with technical issues in preparation for the first trial demonstration.

With the intention of showing OP’s development status, an attitude was expressed that the demonstration would be worthwhile even with some failures along the way. “Let’s first carry out one experiment.”

The OPCIP aims to start the demonstration experiment in July, as a trial to be conducted in stages with the cooperation of media and advertising companies that are its members.

First, the experiment aims to verify whether the OP program works properly in a network environment isolated from the outside world.

Gradually, the number of articles and advertisements with embedded OP markers will be increased, and eventually, the program will be posted on actual news sites to see if it works well.

The OPCIP is accelerating the development of OP because they aim to have it become an international standard. As there are similar development projects underway in the United States and countries in Europe, Japan needs to establish the technology as quickly as possible to take the lead.

The OPCIP aims to submit the proposal to the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), an international standardization organization for web standards, by the end of this year.

Tatsuya Kurosaka, 48, secretary general of the OPCIP, said, “We will demonstrate that this is not an impractical proposition, to realize its practical application in 2025.”Congress held in Taipei.

Law offers little defense

Amid the rise of generative artificial intelligence, there are hopes that utilizing Originator Profile, a technology to identify the sources or originators of information, will to some extent help curb copyright infringement and the spread of fake news.

As the development and use of generative AI have been expanding in a virtually unregulated way, some experts call for creating a system that can determine the credibility of information on the internet.

Generative AI learns from information on the internet and produces sentences and images. Meanwhile, Japan’s Copyright Law, which was revised in 2018, allows AI to learn sentences and images without obtaining permission even if they are copyrighted works, such as newspaper articles.

Although the law does not allow AI learning in cases “where the interests of the copyright holder are unreasonably impaired,” the Cultural Affairs Agency only cites unauthorized reproduction of commercially available “learning databases” as an example of such cases. Other cases are left to be worked out in the courts. Last month, the government merely confirmed its policy of discussing possible cases of copyright infringement and other issues.

Generative AI learns from a mixture of good or bad information on the internet and could produce false or erroneous text and images as a result. It is almost impossible to tell from the outside which data AI has learned from. Yomiuri Shimbun Managing Editor Riichiro Maeki cautioned that unless rules are put in place, the OP technology may be ignored.

Satoshi Ikemura, an attorney specializing in copyright law, warns: “The wide availability of generative AI has led to the explosive spread of fake news on the internet. The risk that the core of democracy will be undermined has heightened.”

He also said that “taking measures to clarify the credibility of information on the internet is necessary so as not to fall for disinformation.”

He urged that “the government should take measures in a prompt manner such as imposing an obligation on businesses to state explicitly if the information is generated by AI.”