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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.
 
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