Within minutes of a national tragedy, your social media will overflow with stories about what has happened. News outlets are quick to report, but is it always the truth? False statements tend to sound more shocking and therefore catch your attention. These false statements can feed into conspiracy theories that take over the searches when trying to find the truth.
The truth is, we click on what grabs our attention. The stories, whether false or true, are passed around on social media through shares and posts. Now imagine those shares are a video of a leader doing the unthinkable. The amount of traffic to the video will increase because it is surprising. But it’s been doctored from the original. What are you to believe?
The technology that we have available today provides a user the tools to take a few hours of recorded audio and alter it to have the person say something completely different. With a few hundred images of a person, technology allows you to synthesize a video of that person’s face on another body with expressions and movements. Researchers at the University of Washington used artificial intelligence to create Obama moving his mouth when he speaks. Their technique allowed them to put any words into their synthetic Barack Obama’s mouth. Although this technology is impressive, the fact that it is so realistic is terrifying.
According to Hany Farid, “We are rapidly heading toward a dystopian digital future in which self-organizing online communities will be able to create and disseminate their world of pseudo-facts and pseudo-reality.” We are already starting to see this happen within social media with the spread of fake news. For example, a false image of Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez ripping up the constitution was shared even after proving it was fake. The original photo was of her ripping up a shooting target. This image is still being shared and adds to the fire of conspiracy theories that the students are “paid actors.”
Another example of fake news appeared in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Posts on social media used images of Carlee Soto, sister of the slain teacher Vicki Soto, crying when she first learned of her sister’s passing. The conspiracy theory was that Carlee Soto was a “crisis actor,” whose picture appears in other mass shootings. Although the theory is discredited, the image can still be viewed on social media today.
With the volatile political, environmental, and social climate we live in today, it’s hard to know what is the truth. Both political parties blame the other party for fake news; several conspiracy theories thrive off of spreading the shocking vs. fact. We are left trying to find the truth on our own.
Many news media are failing to check the accuracy and credibility of its sources thoroughly. It’s almost as though we are reading the headlines of the Inquirer at the grocery store check-out when skimming through our social media feeds. With the recent investigations by Congress and the FBI into investigating evidence that Russian spread false reports to change the election, will there be laws created to protect us going forward?
Fake news is a daily word when reading top reports, remember to try to read credible sources; verify and cross-check multiple sources to find your truth.
Mezzofiore, Gianluca. (2018, March 26). No, Emma Gonzalez did not tear up a photo of the Constitution. Retrieved from cnn.com: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/26/us/emma-gonzalez-photo-doctored-trnd/index.html
Snow, Shane. (2012, August 1). Contently’s Code of Ethics for Journalism and Content Marketing. Retrieved from contently.com: https://contently.com/2012/08/01/ethics/
Hodkinson, Matt. (n.d.). https://www.influenceagents.com/brain-juice/content-marketing-is-dead-and-controversy-gets-clicks. Retrieved from influenceagents.com:
Farid, Hany. (2018, September 25). The dystopian digital future of fake media. Retrieved from qz.com: https://qz.com/1383619/the-dystopian-digital-future-of-fake-media/
YouTube. (2017, July 19). Fake Obama created using AI video tool – BBC News. Retrieved from youtube.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmUC4m6w1wo#action=share
Fox, Maggie. (2018, March 8). Fake News: Lies spread faster on social media than truth does. Retrieved from nbcnews.com: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/fake-news-lies-spread-faster-social-media-truth-does-n854896
Osberg, Molly. (2018, February 26). The ‘Crisis Actor’ Conspiracy Theory Is a New Twist on an Old American Delusion. Retrieved from splinternews.com: https://splinternews.com/the-crisis-actor-conspiracy-theory-is-a-new-twist-on-an-1823325917