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IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT FAKE

How to separate fact from fiction on the World Wide Web

By Lauren van Rooyen

We all make use of the Internet at some time or another. We are bombarded with “plastic” images promoting the ideal body, face, hair and lifestyle. Society finds itself pressured to “fit in” and “follow suit”. But there is a far more dangerous agenda taking over the Internet. Fake News is a booming business and the plot is thickening fast.

The World Wide Web has certainly come a long way since it was launched in the late 1960’s. The very first company that created a workable prototype was ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) and was originally funded by the United States Department of Defense.

Fast forward to 1991 when the World Wide Web officially opened up to the public. On 6 August 2020 the WWW will celebrate its 29th birthday. It is true that the Internet has many advantages but it can also be a very scary and unsafe space.

In a world that is all about convenience, one would think that the Internet will bring us all together, to unify us as a nation in solidarity and strength.  However, the reality is far from the truth. The Internet is riddled with hidden agendas, conspiracy theories, propaganda, Fake News, and “deep-fake” videos to name but a few. Fake news has been in existence for decades but now has the power of the WWW to reach a far larger audience. The bottom line is Fake News is “BAD NEWS” as the motive behind this is generally destructive with the intent to cause confusion, hate, fear, and so on.

It is imperative that now more than ever, we are cautious what we read, take to heart and what we share. The Internet certainly can empower people but it is also used to create unrest, uncertainty, and dissension. If you treat the Internet with respect, being mindful of how you interact on this shared space and avoid confrontation, bias, and negativity the WWW will be a far less toxic place.

Okay so let’s be realistic. The above is definitely easier said than done. So how do you separate fact from fiction? Let’s explore the world of “fake” in a bit more detail.

What is FAKE NEWS?

According to Wikipedia Fake News is also known as junk news, pseudo-news, alternative facts or hoax news. It is a form of news consisting of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional news media or online social media.  Digital news has brought back and increased the usage of Fake News, or yellow journalism.

How is it spread?

There are many avenues to spread Fake News. The most common sources are the Internet, social media, radio, newspapers, television and not forgetting word-of-mouth. Are you starting to see the bigger picture of just how hard and fast the world of “Fake” is coming at you?

Now that we understand what Fake News is and through which portals it is spread, we can now analyze the different types of Fake News out there. We have all come across these in our daily lives.

For accuracy purposes I am going to quote from the source I have used:

https://www.prattlibrary.org/research/tools/index.aspx?cat=90&id=4735

 

“Deliberate” Misinformation


There is Fake News written for profit and then shared on social media among targeted groups of people who want to believe that it is true. The intention is for the Fake News to spread without readers taking the time to properly verify it. This type of Fake News is untrue news.

 

False Headlines


A news headline may be read one way or state something as fact, but then the body of the article says something different. The Internet term for this type of misleading Fake News is “clickbait”—headlines that catch a reader’s attention to make them click on the Fake News. This type of Fake News is misleading at best and untrue at worst.

 

Social Media Sharing

Social media’s ability to show a large number of news items in a short time means that users might not take the time to conduct research and verify each one. These sites often rely on shares, likes, or followers who then turn news items into a popularity contest—and just because something is popular and widely-shared does not mean it’s true.

 

Satire

Satirical news or comedy news often begins with an aspect of truth then purposefully twists it to comment on society. Satire news has the potential to be spread as though it is real news by those who do not understand its humorous nature. An example of a well-known satire website is “The Onion.”

If you are on a social media platform, I am sure you will recognize how prevalent the above examples are!

 

Separating the “chaff from the coffee bean”

 

Get out your magnifying glass as you become Nancy Drew on your quest to find the facts amongst all the fiction. Below are some really useful tips to help guide you to separate the difference between the good, the bad, and downright dirty.

  1. Who is WHO?

Who is presenting the content? There are a couple of easy references you can use to determine the credibility of a source such as is there a website backing the content? Is there a call to action button to an “About me/us” section? Does the author have a LinkedIn Profile or other Social Media Accounts? Another easy way is to look at the website address. URL links that end in .gov;  .edu;  .mil  and  .org  are more credible. A quick Google search will also give you some more insight as to the trustworthiness of a source.

 

  1. Say WHAT?

Analyzing what the message is all about will help you narrow down if the source is indeed fact or fiction. Can you find the same message on several other sources? Who is contributing to the content? Factual articles will provide quotes from sources giving the content more credibility. Most “Anonymous” sources are Fake.  When was the content published and most importantly look out for bias.

 

  1. But WHY?

Lastly, the Nancy Drew in you should be asking, what is the motivation around the content being presented? Were the sources paid for the content and was it created to make a profit? Was the content perhaps sponsored? These questions will help determine how dependable a source really is.

Doing a little digging and having a practical and sensible approach to the content you are exposed to will go a long way in avoiding the spread of Fake News and propaganda.

 

HOW DEEP IS DEEP-FAKE?

It is quite frightening to think that Deep-fake technology is fast on the rise. In fact we have been exposed to a similar form in the past year with “Face Swop” apps. But what is Deep-fake and why is it super dangerous?

As referenced from Wikipedia, Deep-fakes are synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness. While the act of faking content is not new, deep-fakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with a high potential to deceive. Deep-fakes have garnered widespread attention for their uses in celebrity pornographic videosrevenge pornfake newshoaxes and financial fraud.

 

Deep-fake technology gives the creator the power to manipulate and fabricate ANY content with ANY face to suit his or her agenda. Without getting into too much detail I am sure you can see just how destructive this technology can be in the wrong hands. Deep-fake technology has become so convincing it is often hard to tell reality from fabrication.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is super clever and very creative. The question we need to ask ourselves is how much content we are exposed to on a daily basis is indeed accurate? The more you are aware of the dangers of the WWW, the easier it is to unfollow and ignore the chaff. Use your time on the Internet to spread kindness, positivity and hope, in an effort to inspire and empower us in solidarity.

I have a few sayings and mantras that I live by and I consciously bear these in mind when I am on Social Media. Think before you share or comment. Remember we all have an opinion. That does not mean you always have to air it. The more you become aware of the hidden agendas at play around Fake News, the less you will pay attention to it. Fake News is ultimately out to create chaos. It is our responsibility not to compound the problem.

In conclusion, use your time wisely on the WWW. Be like Nancy Drew when it comes to verifying sources and don’t forget just because someone’s opinion offends you does not mean you are right.

Sources:

https://www.csoonline.com/article/3293002/deepfake-videos-how-and-why-they-work.html  

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