A photo verification solution to restore trust in news images, developed by a team of students from the University of Missouri and Truman State University, has won the 2018 RJI Student Competition.

VeriPixel emphasizes integrity, transparency, authenticity and reliability to the images we see in newspapers, magazines, television and the web. In the era of fake news, people do not trust photographs and do not have a way to authenticate the images. Currently there is no industry standard to verify photographs or video.

VeriPixel uses blockchain technology that enables news organizations to verify images that may have been sent in from journalists or the public over open networks. And it also allows the reader to use the same technology to verify the image that they are looking at online.

“It’s a known problem and they’re [working to develop] a technical, efficient, meaningful way to solve it,” said judge Jeff Shackelford, director of Digital Sandbox at the University of Missouri Kansas City. “A real problem and a viable solution.”

“Technology helps us determine veracity and fight fake news,” said competition judge David Kurpius, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism. “[VeriPixel] is a unique solution to this problem.”

Next steps include working with news media and hardware manufacturers, and pursuing intellectual property rights.

The members of Team VeriPixel are William Fries, computer science, business administration at Truman State University; Zechang Fu, Rachel Thomas and Meiying Wu, convergence journalism; and Alex Johar, electrical engineering.

Fries and Thomas found each other at a pre-competition hackathon, their backgrounds complementing each other. They then identified and recruited the rest of the team.

Fries attended TigerHacks to encourage classmates from his school. “I was going to work on homework all night,” he said.

 “Oh, you’re in the cryptocurrency class, … you should participate in the competition … it has a lot of potential,” Fries recalled. “I found Rachel, she found all the others.”


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