78 Days

Creating a Photographic Archive of Trust

A Starling Lab Case Study

For 78 days, teams at the Starling Lab and Reuters worked together to document the presidential transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden with an array of new image authentication technologies and decentralized web protocols.

The prototype archive that we created is a time capsule for both this historic moment in U.S. politics and a microcosm of the difficulties reporting the news in our digital age, as allegations of fake news and altered digital photos abound.

The methods and tools we evaluated address three challenges:

1. How can we securely capture digital photos?

2. How can we store them securely?

3. How do we verify the accuracy of their content?


The pixels, code, and analysis we present form a complex image of trust. They reveal both the presence and absence of trust in our politics and daily lives.

Technology is not a panacea to solve the problems with trust in our media. It carries a promise to establish and restore trust but also creates new risks of surveillance and new vulnerabilities for journalists.

Yet, the call to understand how it could contribute to improving newsgathering is compelling — and vital.

The White House is seen reflected inside of a raindrop during a storm in Washington, U.S., November 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenne

78 Days | The Archive

78 Days | The Archive

Explore the Case Study:

Case Study Authors:

Jonathan Dotan
Cheryl Philips
(Stanford University)

Pictures Production Editor:

Kevin Coombs (Reuters)

Lead Engineers:

Tammy Yang
Bofu Chen
Ethan Wu
Cameron Fyfe

The authors wish to thank for their contributions:

Marvin Ammori

Juan Benet

Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Dan Boneh
Jim Bourg

Charles Cao
Michael Caronna
Phil Chen

Gina Chua

Nigel Clark

Jesse Clayburgh

David Cohn

Colin Evran
Nathan Freitas

Zenobia Godschalk

Alex Godwin

Sam Gregory

Sam Gustman

Wendy Hanamura

Mance Harmon

Christian Hasker

Maria Juranic

Andrew Kaback

Brewster Kahle
Dave Kozma

Michelle Lee

Xin Li

Angie Maguire
Brendan McDermid
Mark Nadal

Austin Neill

Lucy Nicholson

Andy Parsons
Peter Rabbitson

Dana Rao

Zak Robinson

Leonard Rosenthol

Jussi Rytkönen

Pooja Shah

Stephen Smith

Donald Thibeau

Elite Truong

Emily Vaughan
Tsachy Weissman

Published February 10, 2020

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