Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018

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Outtakes—Fake News Crisis

By Rick Outzen

The Fake News Crisis isn’t how newspapers report and hold our government accountable. The crisis is we are entering an era in which the technology exists to make it appear as if something has happened, regardless of whether or not it did, and public discourse can be undermined easily.

In an interview for BuzzFeed, Aviv Ovadya, the Chief Technologist at the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility, pointed out that incentives that govern the web’s biggest social media platforms are calibrated to reward information that is often misleading and polarizing or both. The platforms want traffic and don’t care if the users are real or fake. Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritize clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information.

The 2016 election showed us how vulnerable the algorithmically-optimized world of social media is to propaganda and misinformation. Entities tied to foreign governments manipulated the public discourse on the candidates, race and a variety of hot-button issues.

Ovadya warned in the future that easy-to-use and eventually seamless technological tools might allow dangerous players on the web to manipulate perception and falsify reality. The public will have a more difficult time believing what it reads, sees and hears.

Advanced technology can create the belief that an event has occurred that didn’t happen. Footage and audio of Donald Trump or North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un can be manipulated to create an audio or video clip of one them declaring nuclear war.

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