As technology more deeply integrates with lives throughout the world, fact-checking is more important now than it has ever been. More information is rapidly accessible and unfortunately the same is true of misinformation, lies, and propaganda.
Technology isn’t just changing the amount of information, or the speed at which it’s shared, it’s changing the way information is created. Since not all people behind a keyboard are operating with good intentions, it is our responsibility to stay ahead of it.
Deepfakes are an emerging technology where audio and video are created in the likeness of another person.
At this point, most deepfakes are memes. As a result, there hasn’t been a great need to fact-check. As that changes, understanding how deepfakes are created and spread is important.
Creators of deepfakes typically take hours of high-quality audio and video of the person they want to impersonate. It allows them to match the precise pitch and inflections of the target’s voice. Additionally, the video lets them copy mannerisms, facial expressions, and more.
Though the life of deepfake technology has been short thus far, the result is impressive. Developers created a number of accurate deepfakes, already.
On another occasion, one deepfake used hundreds of hours of Joe Rogan’s podcast. Then, the program generated dialogue as though it was Joe Rogan himself.
At this time, much of the deepfake content is funny. However, there is a substantial concern that this technology will be used for destructive ends. Due to this, Jordan Peele created a deepfake of President Obama issuing a Public Service Announcement on the topic.
In fact, it is getting harder to spot deepfakes. At this time, it isn’t difficult to fact-check a deepfake. However, it will only get harder as technologies improve.
Since the 2016 election, a lot of focus exists on President Trump’s involvements with Russia. Unfortunately, an important aspect of Russian covert operations has gone largely ignored.
Throughout 2017, investigative journalists and government intelligence agencies investigated a clear threat to the American republic. What they found was that Russia used social media tactically to socially engineer American citizens.
For example, Russian trolls bought advertisements on sites like Facebook. In some cases, tens of millions of people saw these ads. In other instances, popular words and phrases commonly circulated through political circles.
Alternatively, Russian-backed Facebook accounts also staged multiple protests simultaneously. By design, different protest groups supported different sides of polarizing issues, resulting in strife.
Unfortunately, this is very difficult for us to fact-check in real time. However, it is clear that Russians meant to sew discord amongst American citizens.
As a result, social media companies sent incredible amounts of data to the Senate Intelligence Committee for investigation. They found a massive, coordinated effort to impact our elections. The Intelligence Committee wasted no time in informing the public of this very real threat.
Propaganda is by far the easiest type of misinformation to fact-check.
An unfortunate truth about mainstream media today is that it prioritizes being the first to break news over breaking factual and accurate news. Denzel Washington popularly blasted the media in 2016 about that very fact.
It also prioritizes clicks and ratings. More specifically, it prioritizes revenue generation over truth.
Fake news is everywhere, and seems to happening with greater frequency. For example, the media rushed to Jussie Smollett’s defense after he created a fake assault story. A month later, it hammered the Covington kids for days, even as video emerged showing they were the victims.
One would think that our news outlets would be trustworthy enough to fact-check so we didn’t have to. Unfortunately, they have no such integrity.
Recently, Buzzfeed published an article claiming that Ben Shapiro inspired a synagogue vandal. However, investigation records prove that the vandal never even mentioned Shapiro‘s name.
Just this week, media ran a news story of the legal assisted suicide of a 17 year old Dutch girl. In reality, the euthanasia never happened.
Unfortunately, this was not a few news outlets that misreported. Outlets, big and small, willingly jumped the gun. Fox News, Daily Mail, One News Page, Daily Beast, Euronews, and MSN are just a few outlets that misinformed their patrons.
These are just a few examples of publications that are happening every single day. Therefore, fact-checking the media we consume is essential.
While satire is not malicious compared to our previous examples, it should be discussed as yet another reason to fact-check.
Popular satire sites, such as The Onion and The Babylon Bee, have duped even professionals. The Onion suckered a Republican Congressman with one of its articles in 2012. Some of their articles have been so convincing, it inspired the Daily Beast to create a list of those it fooled.
Additionally, The Babylon Bee fooled thousands with one article in 2017. The lack of fact-checking caused an outrage that a pastor was (not really) going to make a $110million contract for preaching.
Satire sites are not the only sources for unreal information, as a matter of fact. Likewise, parody accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Parler are becoming more and more popular.
In one unacceptable circumstance, Twitter banned a parody account of popular Democratic Socialist Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This occured in spite of the fact that it labeled itself a parody account according to Twitter’s Terms of Service.
In late 2018, the North Korean government parody account DPRK fooled Samantha Power. Keep in mind, she is a former US Ambassador to the UN.
Fact-checking is important.
It cannot be understated. Moreover, there are a number of ways you can go about it.
Web-searches are your biggest friend. Whether you are using Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go, or some other search engine, make sure you cross-reference the content. After you checked it, check it again.
Try going to the source. If you are watching a questionable video, see what the person featured in the video has to say about it. This way you know if it is real, faked, or taken out of context.
If a media outlet is providing you with only 10- or 20-second clips to quote someone, go find the full video. Don’t take their word for it. This way you can see if the person’s words are deliberately being misrepresented to push a narrative.
Use a variety of media outlets with different political leanings. Different perspectives can shine light on different topics or events. Whats more, you are likely to uncover new facts and perspectives.
Wait a few days. As the old saying goes, “haste makes waste.” Media that rushes to push a story will get facts wrong. The real story is likely to follow.
Fact-check the fact-checkers. Even websites such as Snopes and PolitiFact have political biases to avoid.
Know the source, and make sure the source is credible.
Make sure memes you share are factual and accurate. Make sure events you want to attend are legitimate.
Look for key phrases such as “parody” or “satire” with accounts or articles you share. To emphasize this, Facebook stamps satire articles with a “Satire” disclaimer.