Fake news and the era of post-truth: everything is just beginning

    To consider this as false news or a statement of fact? Depends on the point of view

    In the spring of 2014 on social networks flew the news about collecting signatures on WhiteHouse.gov for the United States to return Alaska to Russia. In a few days, the petition on the official website of the White House inexplicably collected almost 30,000 signatures. There were several surprised articles in the American media about a strange fact, but they soon forgot about it.

    At that time, no one understood what was happening. Only individual experts became interested in these events. They conducted a small investigation - and found that the link to the petition was repeatedly tweeted thousands of Russian-speaking bots. Methods of issuing so-called "fake news"familiar to the Russian media sphere , turned out to be a perfect surprise for Americans.

    During the American election campaign, a cyber attack on the National Committee of the US Democratic Party played a key role with the subsequent publication of an archive of mail letters on the Wikileaks website. Here it has already become clear what a serious threat the Western political establishment has faced. This is not just civilian hacktivism, but a serious and influential pressure, the purpose of which is to carry out specific political tasks (see the list below). They became aware of the threat not only in the USA, but also in Europe .

    According to some experts, a successful information operation with twitter botsand the dissemination of “fake news” during the presidential election of 2016 is not only an attempt by an unknown force to help advance a particular presidential candidate. Not at all. This is the beginning of a major information war, the purpose of which is to undermine the trust of American citizens in the justice of the democratic system. In fact, this is a return to the methods of the Cold War, but only with the help of modern information tools: social networks, fake news, web teams and with the help of hacktivists. In this case, in addition to supporting one of the candidates, five additional tasks are performed:

    • undermine citizens' confidence in a democratic government;
    • ignite and sharpen political differences;
    • undermine citizens' confidence in elected officials and democratic institutions;
    • to popularize a specific point of view on political events in the world;
    • create a general distrust and confusion about sources of information, blurring the line between fact and fiction.

    It is the last point that causes the greatest interest in terms of disseminating information in social media. After all, the largest US internet services that could not filter out fake news and block bots became involuntary accomplices and key platforms for propaganda propaganda. These are Twitter, Facebook and Google (including Google News news aggregator).

    Now there is a debriefing, and the "culprits" are trying to comprehend what happened and take the necessary measures, albeit belatedly.

    Facebook reaction

    Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem of spreading misinformation through Facebook and promised to take action: “We have been working on this problem for a long time and we are seriously aware of our responsibility. We have made significant progress, but there is still a long way to go, Zuckerberg wrote. “Historically, we relied on our community, which helps distinguish misinformation from fact. Any user on Facebook can report the spread of misinformation, and we use these signals along with other signals — for example, analyzing links to sites that expose myths like Snopes — to understand which stories we can confidently classify as disinformation. ”

    But Facebook is not doing very well. Historically, the editors department worked on Facebook, which moderated the list of popular news, removing viral and fake news from unverified sources. In May 2016, due to this, a big scandal broke out - Facebook was accused of political censorship and attempts to influence public opinion by manipulating the selection of “popular news”, from which it was most often removed popular news related to one of the candidates.

    Under pressure from public opinion, Facebook fired editors and almost completely switched to algorithmic filtering methods, but after that the number of fake news on the social network only increased .

    Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that these problems are "complex, both technically and philosophically."

    Twitter co-founder reaction

    Co-founder Yves Williams responded briefly to Mark Zuckerberg. He just noticed that when Zuckerberg opened the post about disinformation, Facebook showed him two advertising banners at once with a link to the obvious fake news.

    In general, that says it all. Facebook is struggling with misinformation in words, but the entire social networking architecture is geared towards the viral dissemination of information, and not at all about fact checking, censorship and filtering. Nothing can be done about it.

    Google reaction

    In the coming weeks, Google is going to remove the "In the News" section from the standard search results in the desktop version. It will replace the issuance of "Top Stories", as in the mobile version. This is done in response to allegations that Google also contributes to the dissemination of fake news , raising unreliable blogs to the top of search results.

    In any case, to deal with the flow of fake news will be quite difficult. And the problem will not disappear by itself, because false news is generated and promoted not only by web teams. Crowds of hamsters from sites like Reddit and content farms that make tens of thousands of dollars are also involved in the spread of viral forgeries. But the saddest thing is that social networks inherently contribute to the viral dissemination of information. As practice shows , it is fake unverified news that is spread faster and more efficiently in social networks.

    Share a fake “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead” article on Facebook from the Denver Guardian blog, as well as spreading objective information in regular media

    The refutation of history (truth) will then read a small part of the audience. They can be neglected. The main thing is that the fake news has had the desired effect by appealing to the emotions and personal convictions of the audience. Such methods are called postpravda (post-truth). For good reason, the compilers of the Oxford Dictionary chose this word as the word for 2016 .

    If people increasingly turn to social networks for information, then post-truth will become a normal and common tool for working with mass audiences.

    See also:
    • Manipulation and abuse on social media . Emilio Ferrara with Ching-man Au Yeung, ACM SIGWEB Newsletter archive. Issue Spring, Spring 2015. Article No. 4. DOI: 10.1145 / 2749279.2749283
    • Social bots distort the 2016 US Presidential election online discussion . Alessandro Bessi, Emilio Ferrara. DOI: 10.5210 / fm.v21i11.7090
    • The rise of social bots . Communications of the ACM. Volume 59 Issue 7, July 2016. Pages 96-104. DOI: 10.1145 / 2818717
    • Science vs Conspiracy: Collective Narratives in the Age of Misinformation . Alessandro Bessi, Mauro Coletto, George Alexandru Davidescu, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli, Walter Quattrociocchi. PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0118093
    • The spreading of misinformation online . Michela Del Vicario, Alessandro Bessi, Fabiana Zollo, Fabio Petroni, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli, H. Eugene Stanley, Walter Quattrociocchi. Pnas. DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.1517441113
    • BotOrNot: A System to Evaluate Social Bots . Clayton A. Davis, Onur Varol, Emilio Ferrara, Alessandro Flammini, Filippo Menczer. arXiv: 1602.00975
    • The DARPA Twitter Bot Challenge . VS Subrahmanian, Amos Azaria, Skylar Durst. Computer (Volume: 49, Issue: 6, June 2016). DOI: 10.1109 / MC.2016.183

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