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Fake News

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Autocrats' new high-tech tools for repression

"The next generation of repressive technology will make past efforts to spread propaganda and quash dissent look primitive," Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security, and Kara Frederick, of the center’s technology and security program, write in The Wall Street Journal (subscription):

  • Automated microtargeting: "AI-driven applications will soon allow authoritarians to analyze patterns in a population’s online activity, identify those most susceptible to a particular message and target them more precisely with propaganda."
  • "ots will soon be indistinguishable from humans online — capable of denouncing antiregime activists, attacking rivals and amplifying state messaging in alarmingly lifelike ways."

Why it matters: "Dictators from Caracas to Pyongyang will seek to exploit the enormous potential for political misuse inherent in the emerging technologies, just as they have over the decades with radio, television and the internet itself."
 

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
We live in a "fake" world

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios


Welcome to our sad, new, distorted reality — the explosion of fake: fake videos, fake people on Facebook, and daily cries of "fake news."

  • This week, we reached a peak fake, with Facebook saying it had deleted 2.2 billion fake accounts in three months ... a fake video of Speaker Pelosi going viral ... and Trump going on a fresh "fake news" tear.
  • A Pew survey last year found that two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites came from non-human users (bots or other automated accounts), per Axios' Neal Rothschild.
Why it matters: This is just a small taste of our unfiltered future. It's only going to get easier to generate fake audio, fake videos and even fake people — and to spread them instantly and virally.

  • Fake polls, fake experts, fake fundraisers and even fake think tanks are proliferating.
  • Fake influence has become the result of an internet that's filled with fake measurement and personas.
More than half of internet trafficcomes from bots, not people, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes in this astonishing tour of our fake world:

  • Dozens of content farms and internet hacks make money selling or amplifying fake video views or follower accounts to politicians and influencers.
  • Distorted images can make any crowd size look bigger or smaller than reality.
  • Around the world, fake pollsare being set up to distort elections.
The hottest political tactic this cycle is forcing a candidate or politician to defend themselves against a hoax.

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg was falsely accused of sexual assault by right-wing trolls.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris has found herself caught up in a storm of fake memes questioning her identity and race.
Fake fundraising is becoming easier. The inability to vet real personas online makes it hard to be discerning about how money is transacted on the internet.

  • A California con man set up bogus websites for Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke to defraud donors, NBC reported.
Be smart: Fakes and personas have existed on TV, radio and print for years. But as the N.Y. Times notes: "Legislators have failed to stay on top of social media platforms, with their billions of hard-to-track users from all over the world."

What's next: The inevitable result of a fake information universe is real crisis manufactured by fake news.

  • Misinformation about vaccines has led to an alarming number of measles outbreaks.
  • And fake online pharmacies have led to a spike in deaths.
Share this story.

  • Go deeper: "Deepfakes and false memories," by Jessie Li.
 

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
2020 campaigns aren't ready for deepfakes

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios


The 2020 presidential campaignsappear to have done little to prepare for what experts predict could be a flood of fake videos depicting candidates doing or saying something incriminating or embarrassing, Axios emerging technologies reporter Kaveh Waddell writes from the Bay Area.

  • Why it matters: The recent manipulated video of Speaker Pelosi was just a taste of what could lie ahead. Fake video has the potential to sow huge political chaos, and countering it is wildly difficult. And right now, no one can agree who's responsible for doing so.
Axios contacted all 24 Democratic presidential campaigns, plus the Trump campaign and Republican challenger Bill Weld.

  • Nine Democratic campaigns and the Trump campaign responded. None could point to any specific protective steps they had taken against deepfakes.
What's happening: A whole lot of buck-passing.

  • Several Democratic campaignssaid they rely on the DNC for help protecting against disinformation.
  • But the DNC says that job is ultimately the responsibility of campaigns. It does send campaigns a regular email with tips and pointers on dealing with misinformation — the only concrete step we found in our reporting.
  • The RNC says it doesn't usually work with campaigns on cybersecurity.
  • A Trump campaign official said the campaign "maintains constant vigilance, since the media and others online routinely distort the president’s remarks."
A few campaigns had other ideas about who should be responsible.

  • Julián Castro's campaignidentified DHS and the FBI. Contacted by Axios, DHS pointed to the FBI, which said in a statement that it investigates all types of foreign threats.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard told Axios in a statement that the media should play "a major role."
  • And one Democratic campaign aide said the responsibility rests with social media platforms: "There's only so much that a campaign can do."
Consultants who specialize in warding off misinformation are by and large unimpressed with campaigns' preparations for dealing with fake media.

  • "We've met with a bunch of them," one consultant told Axios. "We don't feel like they are serious about investing the resources required."
  • Experts say campaigns should have a rapid-response plan in place to deal with various kinds of manipulated media, cultivate close contacts with social media companies, and assiduously film their own candidates at every turn so that they can show when a clip has been altered.
The bottom line: Do-it-yourself deepfakes are within reach of anyone with some computer savvy and a decent laptop.
 

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
New frontier in disinformation: Human actors

Disinformation campaigns are increasingly able to find willing human participants to amplify their messages and even generate new ones on their own, writes Axios' chief technology correspondent Ina Fried.

  • They're switching from employees to volunteers — and from participants who are in on the game to those who actually believe the disinformational payload they're delivering.
The "most frightening" examples, via researcher Kate Starbird, are conspiracy theories tied to mass casualty events, which crop up organically, though Russian or other disinformation promoters can and do help amplify the messages.

  • "It's almost like a self-sustaining community, but you can see it's been shaped by disinformation campaigns of the past," Starbird said.
Why it matters: Understanding this changing nature is critical to preparing for the next generation of information threats, including those facing the 2020 presidential campaign.
 

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
The same American CEOs and celebrities who publish bold op-eds and stand up for social issues in the U.S. are playing censor for Beijing and cozying up to the Saudi royals, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: Never before have authoritarian governments' ability to silence America's rich and powerful been so starkly on display.
The latest: China has been twisting the NBA's arm over a single pro-Hong Kong tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

  • The threat of losing access to the massive, lucrative Chinese market has pushed the NBA, Morey and even LeBron James to bend to the Chinese Communist Party.
The big picture: It's not just China. American companies have long ignored attacks against democratic values in authoritarian countries that are willing to shell out for their products or services.

  • The American intelligence community acknowledges that the Kremlin interfered in an American presidential election and committed a nerve agent attack on British soil. But American corporations still maintain strong ties to the regime, even though the U.S. has had sanctions in place against Russia since 2014.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi royal family, but it's business as usual between U.S. companies and the Saudi government.

  • The Saudis are the biggest customers for American weapons and the biggest source of capital for Silicon Valley startups.
  • Wall Street is still vying for the IPO of Saudi oil giant Aramco — a deal that could be worth up to $2 trillion.
But no country has pushed American people and companies around like China.

  • The list is almost endless. The American companies that have apologized to China or censored themselves to please the Chinese Communist Party include Marriott, the Gap, all three big airlines, shoemaker Vans and gaming company Activision Blizzard.
What to watch: China is only getting richer.
 

Mondieu

TRIBE Member
The same American CEOs and celebrities who publish bold op-eds and stand up for social issues in the U.S. are playing censor for Beijing and cozying up to the Saudi royals, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: Never before have authoritarian governments' ability to silence America's rich and powerful been so starkly on display.
The latest: China has been twisting the NBA's arm over a single pro-Hong Kong tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

  • The threat of losing access to the massive, lucrative Chinese market has pushed the NBA, Morey and even LeBron James to bend to the Chinese Communist Party.
The big picture: It's not just China. American companies have long ignored attacks against democratic values in authoritarian countries that are willing to shell out for their products or services.

  • The American intelligence community acknowledges that the Kremlin interfered in an American presidential election and committed a nerve agent attack on British soil. But American corporations still maintain strong ties to the regime, even though the U.S. has had sanctions in place against Russia since 2014.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi royal family, but it's business as usual between U.S. companies and the Saudi government.

  • The Saudis are the biggest customers for American weapons and the biggest source of capital for Silicon Valley startups.
  • Wall Street is still vying for the IPO of Saudi oil giant Aramco — a deal that could be worth up to $2 trillion.
But no country has pushed American people and companies around like China.

  • The list is almost endless. The American companies that have apologized to China or censored themselves to please the Chinese Communist Party include Marriott, the Gap, all three big airlines, shoemaker Vans and gaming company Activision Blizzard.
What to watch: China is only getting richer.
North America have spent the past 20 years yapping about and reacting to a fringe Muslim threat. Meanwhile, the Chinese have taken over the planet. One of my best friends - someone who's business takes him all over the world told me this was happening, right after 9/11.

"Crashed at the wheel" was his quote.

The Psychedelic Furs said it best, in "President Gas".

"Open up your eyes, just to check if you're asleep again". ;)

 
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