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news and how to combat it
Sanjana Hattotuwa
What is fake news?
• Fake news websites (also referred to as hoax news deliberately publish
hoaxes, propaganda, and disinf...
– President Barack Obama
“And people, if they just repeat attacks enough, and outright
lies over and over again, as long a...
Why invest in fake news?
• It’s extremely profitable, at present.
• ‘Inside the Macedonian Fake News Complex’, https://www....
http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/fake-news-technology?mbid=social_twitter
Fake news on Facebook
in Afghanistan
Fake news in Afghanistan
• As of February 2017, Facebook’s own statistics from its backend suggest that
in the News/Media ...
Fake news in Afghanistan
• The popularity of all three pages suggest that on Facebook, users in the
country are unable (or...
Why does fake news spread so much?
Why does fake news spread so much?
• In the US, people tend to trust information and news from friends and family
• Combin...
Why does fake news spread so much?
Why does fake news spread so much?
• In the Western Province in Sri Lanka, the most connected part of the island,
there is...
Why does fake news spread so much?
• Fake news often goes viral because it is spread over social media networks,
which are...
How to stop fake news?
Technology and social media companies
• Google and Facebook are tackling the rise of fake news
• The companies are using a...
Algorithmic limitations
• Facebook’s Newsfeed did away with human curation in 2016.
• “An entirely automated solution is n...
Ad companies
• Google, Facebook and others are tackling the rise of fake news by tackling
how sites that peddle misinforma...
Media organisations and initiatives
• A number of media organizations and initiatives are tackling the rise of fake
news, ...
Governments are acting against fake news
• France, Germany and the European Union, in collaboration with leading
technolog...
What is future of fake news?
The future of fake news is frightening
• With Adobe technologies, you can change the audio of any recorded
conversation or...
http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/fake-news-technology?mbid=social_twitter
What is the role of media literacy in
combating fake news?
Media literacy initiatives
• There are a plethora of websites, guides, instructional videos and
documentation around (soci...
Simple tips from the BBC
• Don’t be seduced by simplicity

A series of studies have shown that it is surprisingly easy to ...
Simple tips from the BBC
• Accept your ignorance

Many people suffer from over-confidence – the belief they know more than ...
Simple tips from the BBC
• Be curious

Whereas education alone does little to prevent polarised thinking, people who
are m...
Simple tips from the NPR (for students, but useful for media too!)
1. Do you know who the source is, or was it created by ...
Countering rumours &
fake news
Counter-messaging / Combatting rumours
• Myanmar’s Panzagar initiative offers a lesson in how hate speech and content
inci...
Online courses
• Increasingly, there are MOOCs and online course content, for free, around
media literacy
• http://calling...
Online material
• Organisations like TED are focussing on the impact of fake news and
misinformation. Because they are fea...
New technologies
• Craig Silverman, a journalist and fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism
at Columbia Universit...
New collaborations
• New collaborations between technology companies and media institutions,
including civil society organ...
– Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
“We are going through this period of time right here where
unfortunately some of the people that ...
Technology companies are waking up to fake news
• Apple is not a content producer, and has no social media platforms. And ...
New technologies for individual users
• From add-ons to plug-ins, from apps to specific platforms, there will be new
techno...
Media literacy & personal
responsibility is key
The best defense against the spread of fake news is to learn
how to identify it.
The best way to identify fake news is to ...
Thank you
sanjanah@gmail.com
February 2017
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
Fake news and how to combat it
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Fake news and how to combat it

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I was recently asked to put together a presentation on the fake news phenomenon for discussions with leading journalists and media institutions in a developing country, with extremely poor media literacy but strong growth around social media use, on how to both identify misleading content and also stem its flow, reach and influence.

Download the full presentation as a PowerPoint (with embedded videos) or as an Apple Keynote file, here - https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bxbk4wYolphwcVk4bV85aEFtYXc

Published in: News & Politics
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Fake news and how to combat it

  1. 1. news and how to combat it Sanjana Hattotuwa
  2. 2. What is fake news? • Fake news websites (also referred to as hoax news deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news — often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. • Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other gain. • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news_website indicates the scale and scope of the problem, which is global in nature and predates the recent US Presidential election.
  3. 3. – President Barack Obama “And people, if they just repeat attacks enough, and outright lies over and over again, as long as it's on Facebook and people can see it, as long as it's on social media, people start believing it. And it creates this dust cloud of nonsense.”
  4. 4. Why invest in fake news? • It’s extremely profitable, at present. • ‘Inside the Macedonian Fake News Complex’, https://www.wired.com/ 2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/ is a story around how a young Macedonian was able to make a lot of money off fake news. • As noted in the Wired story, between August and November 2016, Boris (not a real name) earned nearly $16,000 off his two pro-Trump websites. The average monthly salary in Macedonia is $371.
  5. 5. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/fake-news-technology?mbid=social_twitter
  6. 6. Fake news on Facebook in Afghanistan
  7. 7. Fake news in Afghanistan • As of February 2017, Facebook’s own statistics from its backend suggest that in the News/Media category, three of the most popular pages are hugely different by way of substance and veracity • BBC Pashto is a mainstream, reputed, verified news media website. • Afghanistan My Passion is an independent website anchored to superficial reporting and feel good stories about the country. • Nunn.asia is a Facebook page that promotes misinformation, and is without any discernible fact checking framework
  8. 8. Fake news in Afghanistan • The popularity of all three pages suggest that on Facebook, users in the country are unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between a credible news source, and fake / false news • This also suggests that media literacy, especially on social media, in the country, is very poor or weak, in a key demographic between 18 - 34, where most of the Facebook users fall under
  9. 9. Why does fake news spread so much?
  10. 10. Why does fake news spread so much? • In the US, people tend to trust information and news from friends and family • Combine this with information and news, from friends and family, over social media, and you have a phenomenon even in the US where fake news finds a ready made vector to spread
  11. 11. Why does fake news spread so much?
  12. 12. Why does fake news spread so much? • In the Western Province in Sri Lanka, the most connected part of the island, there is a sizable percentage of those polled who said they took some action based on what they had encountered online • Tellingly, 61.5% said the action they took, upon seeing something online, was to share it with friends and family • This in turn means that the influence of online media content is much greater than amongst just those who are connected to the Internet and social media directly.
  13. 13. Why does fake news spread so much? • Fake news often goes viral because it is spread over social media networks, which are in many countries the most widespread and persuasive information networks esp. amongst 18-34 year olds • Over social media networks, (1) users tend to uncritically trust news and information they see, (2) go on to share this content with their circles of friends • A lack of media literacy contributes to the lack of questioning over content consumed
  14. 14. How to stop fake news?
  15. 15. Technology and social media companies • Google and Facebook are tackling the rise of fake news • The companies are using a combination of automated, algorithmic curation of news, to check veracity and human curation, anchored to local context, language and other factors • Companies are outsourcing their fact checking to entities like Factcheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact as well as reputed wire news services like Associated Press.
  16. 16. Algorithmic limitations • Facebook’s Newsfeed did away with human curation in 2016. • “An entirely automated solution is nowhere on the horizon,” says Alexios Mantzarlis, who leads Poynter’s fact-checking effort. “You just cannot lose the human element for the moment.” • Algorithms haven’t stopped the prevalence of fake news, and content that incites hatred, in Sri Lanka in Sinhala - a language that is spoken only in the country and not a priority for Facebook.
  17. 17. Ad companies • Google, Facebook and others are tackling the rise of fake news by tackling how sites that peddle misinformation generate money off ads served by these companies • Companies will look at the websites that ads are served on, examine traffic patterns and look at their domains. If suspicious sounding domains are generating high traffic volumes, the companies will examine the content on the sites, and block ads from appearing there. • Companies will also look specifically at the content of the ads themselves, disallowing on their networks ads that serve misinformation
  18. 18. Media organisations and initiatives • A number of media organizations and initiatives are tackling the rise of fake news, in the US, UK and elsewhere • The efforts were a few years centered around User Generated Content (UGC) but are now expanded to cover all news and information covered by the respective media institution
  19. 19. Governments are acting against fake news • France, Germany and the European Union, in collaboration with leading technology and social media companies, are taking action against the fake news phenomenon • Germany threatened Facebook with heavy fines if it did not act to combat fake news • The European Union has warned against the rise of fake news and is supporting efforts to curtain, control and block it
  20. 20. What is future of fake news?
  21. 21. The future of fake news is frightening • With Adobe technologies, you can change the audio of any recorded conversation or speech to reflect whatever it is you want the speaker to say, in his or her tone • With advanced video technologies, the face of a person on a screen, in real time, can be manipulated to fit whatever movements or speech patters an actor or a third person does • The lack of or very poor media literacy across countries that are showing the highest year on year growth of social media is a disturbing foundation for the spread of fake news, faster than governments and companies can curtail it.
  22. 22. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/fake-news-technology?mbid=social_twitter
  23. 23. What is the role of media literacy in combating fake news?
  24. 24. Media literacy initiatives • There are a plethora of websites, guides, instructional videos and documentation around (social) media verification • Most of the content is free, and some of the content is in multiple languages • Content is aimed at individual users, teaching them to question first, verify and only then go on to trust and share news and information over the web, and social media • Media literacy initiatives aren’t new, but are increasingly aimed at the 18-34 demographic as they are particularly susceptible to false and fake news
  25. 25. Simple tips from the BBC • Don’t be seduced by simplicity A series of studies have shown that it is surprisingly easy to mask a lie in the veil of credibility, by making it sound so obvious it must be true. • Be smart to doctored images Images can also increase a story’s cognitive fluency, but thanks to software like Photoshop, they can now be easily doctored, and you may not realise just how easily this can manipulate your memory of history.
  26. 26. Simple tips from the BBC • Accept your ignorance Many people suffer from over-confidence – the belief they know more than the average person. And our smartphones – with infinite knowledge at our finger-tips – can exacerbate this effect. As a result, we may feel less critical of the information that reinforces our assumptions, while dismissing anything that disagrees with us. • Look beyond your bubble Try talking to people with different views from your own, and look to news sources you wouldn’t normally read. You might be surprised to find information that questions the facts you took for granted.
  27. 27. Simple tips from the BBC • Be curious Whereas education alone does little to prevent polarised thinking, people who are more curious appear to appraise scientific evidence in a more balanced way – so that they are not blinded by their existing ideology. • Consider the opposite Ask yourself at each step whether you would have made the same high or low evaluations had exactly the same study produced results on the other side of the issue.
  28. 28. Simple tips from the NPR (for students, but useful for media too!) 1. Do you know who the source is, or was it created by a common or well-known source? Example National Geographic, Discovery, etc. 2. How does it compare to what you already know? 3. Does the information make sense? Do you understand the information? 4. Can you verify that the information agrees with three or more other sources that are also reliable? 5. Have experts in the field been connected to it or authored the information? 6. How current is the information? 7. Does it have a copyright?
  29. 29. Countering rumours & fake news
  30. 30. Counter-messaging / Combatting rumours • Myanmar’s Panzagar initiative offers a lesson in how hate speech and content inciting hate can be combatted over the same platforms that they spread • Counter-messaging, also called the Prevention of Violence Extremism (PVE) or Countering Violent Expression (CVE), can be effective in curtailing the spread of rumours if done strategically, in a timely manner, in the language the original content was in, over the same vectors the rumour spread, produced in an appealing manner.
  31. 31. Online courses • Increasingly, there are MOOCs and online course content, for free, around media literacy • http://callingbullshit.org/index.html, is run by two Professors from the University of Washington, in Seattle. As noted on the site, “…we feel that the world has become over-saturated with bullshit and we're sick of it. However modest, this course is our attempt to fight back. We have a civic motivation as well. It's not a matter of left- or right-wing ideology; both sides of the aisle have proven themselves facile at creating and spreading bullshit. Rather (and at the risk of grandiose language) adequate bullshit detection strikes us as essential to the survival of liberal democracy.”
  32. 32. Online material • Organisations like TED are focussing on the impact of fake news and misinformation. Because they are featured by a trusted platform, what they say has an imprimatur of legitimacy that would otherwise be comparably hard to ascertain. • http://ideas.ted.com/four-tricky-ways-that-fake-news-can-fool-you/ is a brief but helpful guide, not unlike the BBC’s guide, that can help in ascertaining the veracity of content you engage with online. • The featured author on TED’s site, Daniel Levitin, also has a book on media literacy in the information age.
  33. 33. New technologies • Craig Silverman, a journalist and fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, has developed Emergent, a tool that tracks the dissemination of rumors online on topics ranging from a Microsoft acquisition (true, Mr. Silverman says) to a supposed pumpkin spice condom created by Durex (false, Mr. Silverman says). • Via Why Rumors Outrace the Truth Online, https://www.nytimes.com/ 2014/09/30/upshot/its-so-much-more-fun-to-spread-rumors-than-the- truth.html
  34. 34. New collaborations • New collaborations between technology companies and media institutions, including civil society organizations that do fact checking, are emerging • Technology companies especially those dealing with social media are increasingly aware of the threat fake news poses to their reputation and are also being driven by lawsuits, filed by those who allege these companies did little or nothing to prevent the spread of hate speech or fake news • These collaborations, as they mature, will spread geographically and also result in frameworks that can be adapted and adopted by others
  35. 35. – Tim Cook, CEO of Apple “We are going through this period of time right here where unfortunately some of the people that are winning are the people that spend their time trying to get the most clicks, not tell the most truth,” he said. “It’s killing people’s minds in a way.”
  36. 36. Technology companies are waking up to fake news • Apple is not a content producer, and has no social media platforms. And yet, it’s CEO is openly talking about the danger of fake news, promoting a vast campaign around media literacy • Technology companies based in Silicon Valley in the US and elsewhere are waking up to the threat fake news has on their business models, reputations and markets • This in turn is fueling an interest in combatting fake news
  37. 37. New technologies for individual users • From add-ons to plug-ins, from apps to specific platforms, there will be new technologies available to end consumers to flag and filter fake news • Some of these early prototypes are already available on Google Chrome
  38. 38. Media literacy & personal responsibility is key
  39. 39. The best defense against the spread of fake news is to learn how to identify it. The best way to identify fake news is to be critical of what one consumes, and is shared, over social media.
  40. 40. Thank you sanjanah@gmail.com February 2017

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