THE NEXT GENERATION OF FAKE NEWS

THE NEXT GENERATION OF FAKE NEWS

Faced with future threats, planners sometimes make the mistake of preparing to fight the last war. How to avoid that problem in meeting the challenge posed by “fake news?” It helps to take a hard look at how these threats are evolving. Three thoughts:


We are all Russians now  Suspected Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election continues to generate headlines, but new evidence suggests the injection of fake news into the US national bloodstream is increasingly a domestic phenomenon.

Before last week’s midterm elections, US political activists on the left and right were aggressively using Facebook and Twitter to spread false information. Both companies say they found and took down hundreds of sites in recent weeks created by Americans, some with hundreds of thousands of followers, which deliberately promoted disinformation.

There’s nothing new about dirty tricks and party propaganda in US elections, and some content creators may be motivated more by profit than a desire to shape public opinion for political gain. But these increasingly sophisticated campaigns of misinformation appear directly inspired by Russian tactics.

Russian interference revealed a set of tools that can be easily used to sway or cast doubt over the outcome of elections. Even as users become more discerning about fake news, more actors will develop the means to deceive.

Supply follows demand –A new study published by BBC World Service finds that in India, distrust of mainstream media is leading people to spread information from alternative online sources without attempting to verify whether the news is true. The study also found that “a rising tide of nationalism in India” is poisoning political debate. “In India facts were less important to some than the emotional desire to bolster national identity,” wrote the study’s authors.

The urge to support favored political figures and parties, to denigrate others, and to promote a particular vision of India and its perceived enemies has led citizens both to supply fake news and to accept it as true without any serious attempt at verification. Of course, this problem has less to with Indian nationalism than with human nature. It’s a growing problem everywhere.

This isn’t simply a story about bad people trying to deceive honest citizens. The human tendency to believe what we want to believe increases the appeal of falsehood and creates demand for more.

Deep Fakes” are becoming more sophisticated – We’ve raised this alarm before and surely will again: Fake video is becoming more sophisticated. In particular, face-mapping technology, designed to improve television language dubbing, is making it easier to create video that appears to show a person saying or doing something they never actually said or did.

Experts in these technologies point out that AI algorithms can quickly identify phonies, and that so-called deep fakes—manipulated video—add only at the margins to an already serious fake news problem. But AI algorithms are useful only for those who want to know the truth, and video fakes can have a more emotional impact than written ones for the same reasons that a single provocative image can be emotionally more powerful than a thousand words.

The takeaway: Combine the increasingly commonplace nature of systematic disinformation, a natural desire to believe in it, and a persuasive manufactured image, and fake news is becoming a more complex and dangerous problem.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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