• DeepfakesThe challenges of Deepfakes to national security

    Last Thursday, 13 June 2019, Clint Watts testified before the House Intelligence Committee of the growing dangers of Deepfakes – that is, false audio and video content. Deepfakes grow in sophistication each day and their dissemination via social media platforms is far and wide. Watts said: “I’d estimate Russia, as an enduring purveyor of disinformation, is and will continue to pursue the acquisition of synthetic media capabilities and employ the outputs against its adversaries around the world. I suspect they’ll be joined and outpaced potentially by China.” He added: “These two countries along with other authoritarian adversaries and their proxies will likely use Deepfakes as part of disinformation campaigns seeking to 1) discredit domestic dissidents and foreign detractors, 2) incite fear and promote conflict inside Western-style democracies, and 3) distort the reality of American audiences and the audiences of America’s allies.”

  • DeepfakesDeepfake myths: Common misconceptions about synthetic media

    By Aviv Ovadya

    There is finally some momentum to “do something” about deepfakes, but crucial misconceptions about deepfakes and their effect on our society may complicate efforts to develop a strategic approach to mitigating their negative impacts.

  • PerspectiveLawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing

    The House Intelligence Committee heard alarming testimony Thursday that deepfake videos could be weaponized by foreign adversaries to sow divisions in the United States. Olivia Beavers and Maggie Miller write in The Hill that Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and senior fellow for Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, warned lawmakers that Russia and China will likely both work to develop “synthetic media capabilities” for use against the U.S. and other adversaries. “China’s artificial intelligence capabilities rival the U.S., are powered by enormous data troves to include vast amounts of information stolen from the U.S., and the country has already shown a propensity to employ synthetic media in television broadcast journalism,” he said.

  • PerspectiveRussian disinformation on YouTube draws ads, lacks warnings

    Fourteen Russia-backed YouTube channels spreading disinformation have been generating billions of views and millions of dollars in advertising revenue, according to researchers, and had not been labeled as state-sponsored, contrary to the world’s most popular streaming service’s policy. Reuters reports that the channels, including news outlets NTV and Russia-24, carried false reports ranging from a U.S. politician covering up a human organ harvesting ring to the economic collapse of Scandinavian countries. Despite such content, viewers have flocked to the channels and U.S. and European companies have bought ads that run alongside them.

  • PerspectiveMany Americans say made-up news is a critical problem that needs to be fixed

    Many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,127 U.S. adults conducted between 19 February and 4 March 2019, on the Center’s American Trends Panel. Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Sophia Fedeli, Galen Stocking and Mason Walker write for Pew Research Center that, indeed, more Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way. Additionally, nearly seven-in-ten U.S. adults (68 percent) say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54 percent) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other.

  • Preventable diseasesU.S. measles cases top record, putting measles elimination status at risk

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday that 971 cases of measles have been reported this year, topping the 1994 modern-record level, and it warned that the United States could lose its measles elimination status. Amid the growing measles crisis, the conspiracy-fueled anti-vaccination campaign of misinformation continues unabated on social media. DHS mulls a travel ban on measles-infected individuals.

  • Truth decayFacebook, Twitter shut down thousands of Iranian fake accounts

    Social media giant Facebook has announced that it removed dozens of accounts, pages, and groups linked to Iran for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The company also disabled several accounts on its sister-platform Instagram.

  • PerspectiveHow Russia found a disinformation haven in America

    The Mueller Report definitively established that the Russians, both through the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and the Internet Research Agency (IRA), undertook information operations campaigns. This has been reasonably clear for a long time. Rawi Abdelal Galit Goldstein write in the National Interest that framing the Russian disinformation campaign issue through the debate of whether Donald Trump could have won the presidency without Russian help, or whether the Trump campaign actively conspired with Russia, misses the point. “The goal of the information operations campaigns was not simply to elect Donald Trump president. Nor was it only to polarize American politics further. The point was, rather, to continue undermining America’s ability to agree on the true and not-true,” they write. And Russia’s strategy hinged on the fact that it is nearly impossible for people stuck in alternate realities with competing, incompatible truth claims to undertake civil discourse.

  • PerspectiveMinds, the “anti-Facebook,” has no idea what to do about all the neo-Nazis

    Minds is home to neo-Nazis, and wants its users to help decide what content stays on the site. Ben Makuch and Jordan Pearson write in Motherboard that Minds is a US-based social network that bills itself as being focused on transparency (its code is open source), free speech, and cryptocurrency rewards for users. Much of the recent media coverage around Minds, which launched in 2015, has focused on how it challenges social media giants and its adoption of cryptocurrency, while also noting that the site’s light-touch approach to content moderation has led to a proliferation of far-right viewpoints being shared openly on its platform.

  • PerspectiveFacebook’s dystopian definition of “fake”

    Every time another “fake video” makes the rounds, its menace gets rehashed without those discussing it establishing what “fakeness” means in the first place. The latest one came last week, a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi. President Donald Trump tweeted a reference to the video; his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani shared it, too, although Giuliani later deleted his post. Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic that these sorts of events are insidious because it’s hard to form a response that isn’t a bad one. Talking about the video just gives its concocted message more oxygen. Ignoring it risks surrendering truth to the ignorant whims of tech companies. The problem is, a business like Facebook doesn’t believe in fakes. For it, a video is real so long as it’s content. And everything is content.

  • Truth decaySprawling disinformation networks discovered across Europe ahead of EU elections

    Investigation uncovers flood of disinformation aiming to influence to forthcoming EU elections. The revelations led Facebook to take down pages with more than 500 million views. The mainly far-right disinformation pages which were shut down by Face book had three times the number of followers than the pages of more established right wing, populist, and anti-EU partiers such as Lega (Italy), Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) (Germany), VOX (Spain), Brexit Party (U.K.), Rassemblement National (France), and PiS (Poland).

  • ISISTweets reveal how ISIS still inspires low-level attacks

    By analyzing 26.2 million Twitter comments in the Arabic language, researchers found that despite losing territory, ISIS remains successful at inspiring low-level attacks because of its messaging for a “call for lone jihad.”

  • Truth decayEric Oliver on the science of conspiracy theories and political polarization

    The “birthers,” “Pizzagate,” anti-vaxxers. It seems that belief in conspiracy theories is on the rise. At the same time, our polarization is worse than ever. People can hardly even maintain a conversation across political or cultural lines. Could the underlying force driving conspiracy theories also be the same one that’s dividing our country?

  • PerspectiveFacebook, Twitter and the digital disinformation mess

    The kind of disinformation now known as fake news has tainted public discourse for centuries, even millennia. But it’s been amplified in our digital age as a weapon of fearmongers, mob-baiters and election-meddlers that can widen social fissures, undermine democracies and bolster authoritarian regimes. Shelly Banjo writes in the Washington Post that as voters in some of the world’s most-populous countries headed to the polls in 2019, governments began to respond. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have come under increasing pressure to take action.

  • PerspectiveWhy the Christchurch call to remove online terror content triggers free speech concerns

    France and New Zealand spearheaded the adoption on May 15 of the Christchurch Call to Eliminate Terrorist & Violent Extremist Content Online, a voluntary pledge endorsed by 18 countries and many tech companies (including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter). The United States refused to join, citing tofree speech concerns. The Christchurch Call was named after the city in New Zealand where a horrific terrorist attack killed 51 people and injured 50 at two mosques in March. That massacre was live-streamed on Facebook, spreading quickly on that platform as well as other social media sites and raising concerns about how such content goes viral. Evelyn Aswad writes in Just Security that U.S. isolation amidst close allies with respect to this initiative has led to questions about what were the First Amendment hurdles that prevented the U.S. from joining this pledge, especially given it constitutes a political commitment rather than a legally binding document.