VideoBlocks CEO: Policing Fake News Is ‘Virtually Impossible’ (Exclusive)

“We’ve never been about restricting access or policing the usage; we’ve been about the exact opposite,” T.J. Leonard tells TheWrap

T.J. Leonard

VideoBlocks’ booming business supplying stock digital video to content creators is faced with one fundamental issue — it is “virtually impossible” to prevent people from using the product to create fake news.

“I understand why 2016 is the year that fake news sort of had its coming-out party,” VideoBlocks CEO T.J. Leonard told TheWrap. “More and more content is getting created by people who aren’t your traditional professional content producers.”

VideoBlocks offers a combined $10 million worth of stock digital assets such as videos, 360-degree virtual reality clips, images, graphics and audio files that anyone could hypothetically use to create fake news. For example, someone can use the product to superimpose themselves at the Kremlin in Russia, or even put Donald Trump at the Kremlin, for that matter. The possibilities are endless.

“It’s becoming harder for consumers to differentiate what’s real and what has been manufactured to have the appearance of being real,” Leonard said. “I’ve never noticed any piece of fake news that featured our content.”

VideoBlocks has worked with legit media outlets, including ABC, NBC, The Weather Channel and National Geographic, but Leonard admits that anyone can use his product to create fake news. That said, he won’t do anything to stop it, at this point.

“We’ve never been about restricting access or policing the usage; we’ve been about the exact opposite. As a result, we’ll notice our material in a movie or in a YouTube video and sort of catalog that for our own benefit,” Leonard said. “We don’t know where our content goes. There is nothing in our license that says, ‘You have to report back.’”

Leonard explained that if he wanted to put in a fake news policy, it would be “virtually impossible” for the company to police where the content created with VideoBlocks winds up.

“To me, 2016 in a lot of ways was about realism… and exactly what that means to all of us. We had a presidential election which very much challenged our sense of what was real and what was entertainment,” Leonard said. “I think we saw a lot of trends in the commercial content world reflect that.”

Leonard feels emerging technology, such as drone footage and virtual reality, will continue to contribute to a “hyper-realistic, first-person view of the world” that impacts how people view reality, especially when it is shared on social media.

VideoBlocks is currently used by 150,000 customers, ranging from traditional news outlets to individuals looking to create a YouTube video. Leonard isn’t sure how many of the customers have bad intentions, but he’s excited about what 2017 will offer content creators of all types.

“We’re really becoming one big, creative world,” he said.