The Starling Framework: Capture, Store & Verify

Starling’s ground-breaking framework addresses the core challenges in tracking the provenance of digital content.



Starling prototypes cutting-edge authentication technologies, securing metadata at the point of capture.


Starling deploys emerging protocols in advanced cryptography and decentralized networks to securely replicate and preserve digital content over time.


Starling utilizes immutable ledgers to register digital content, enabling experts to audit, or verify, the provenance and authenticity of that content.

Why a framework? And why now?

Working with journalists to research and prototype cutting-edge authentication technology and open source tools to secure digital content.

What started out as "Web 1.0 -- whereby most users access the internet via a desktop computer -- shifted to "Web 2.0" -- which was driven by the rise of mobile phones, social media and cloud computing. That created an ecosystem of great connectivity, but also one where a few powerful technology players monopolized and centralized control of the web.

The impact of these developments on journalism is well documented: a crisis that has disrupted the business model for journalism, enabled the spread of mis/disinformation across the web, and reduced trust in the media.

Now, the internet as we know it is changing. “Web3” is slated to be the new paradigm in the emerging “data economy” and will mark a fundamental change in both how developers architect the web and how people interact with it.

This next wave is being built on decentralized networks that allow users to control how their data is collected, stored, and monetized and know how it has moved across the internet. The protocols that underlie these networks aim to restore trust by allowing publishers to authenticate the original copy of the data at source, know how it has moved across the internet — all without the need for platforms to act as gatekeepers.

As this next wave takes hold, there is opportunity to innovate and deploy new tools and technologies that effectively strengthen a key tenant of legacy journalism: providing users with verified information.

Can the Starling Framework catalyze journalism?

How might we do it?

• By innovating with the latest authentication technologies and decentralized web protocols.
• By making use of those technologies to report and tell stories largely focused on mis/disinformation, human and civil rights around the globe.
• By collaborating with industry affiliates, newsrooms and researchers supporting open source tools.

Why do we do it?

As technologists re-architect or “reset” the web using new Web3 tools, journalists have an opportunity to use those tools to authenticate the source of digital content.

What tools can we use?

Open source tools that will allow journalists to authenticate photos, video, audio and data at the point of capture, building an end-to-end chain of custody that will track the provenance of any piece of digital content at source.
• Authenticate algorithms behind large data sets.
• Capture, store and verify web pages and tweets.
• Use these new tech tools to improve news gathering.

What other questions can we address?

How can we make better use of this next wave of tech to foster trust?

Our Approach

Principles & Protocols

Starling prioritizes collaboration with reporting teams from underrepresented groups and/or newsrooms covering their own communities in the United States or globally.
The Lab primarily supports proposals that break ground in the United States and internationally on mis/disinformation, human and civil rights violations.
Starling Lab ensures editorial independence of all fellows/grantees.


The Starling Lab is supported by a multi-year sponsored research agreement, Stanford University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation. Starling does not prescribe specific technology. Rather, it has developed a framework to understand and evaluate a variety of open-source tools and principles that establish data integrity at source.

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