We have all seen the headlines and wondered if the story was real or not. Fake news has become part of our vernacular, but it’s also become so engrained in our society that we always have to wonder if the news we are reading is actually legit. Fake news isn’t new by any stretch, but it did become increasingly worrisome during the 2016 Presidential Election. Prior to that, we said that people were spreading misinformation, and it seemed innocent. Now, we have to fact check everything that we read, just to ensure we’re getting real information.
And now fake news has become such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks”. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video, and audio clips. If successful, the system after four years of trials may expand to detect malicious intent and prevent viral fake news from polarizing society.
Will this work? It has to because fake news isn’t going anywhere. Because of what happened in 2016, U.S. officials have been working on plans to prevent outside hackers from flooding social channels with false information, in order to prevent it from happening again during the 2020 election. Unfortunately, the attempt to is being hindered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to even consider election security legislation. Critics of McConnell have started to refer to him as Moscow-Mitch, saying that he’s left the entire country vulnerable to meddling by Russia.
Of course, President Donald Trump has repeatedly rejected allegations that fake content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google helped him win the election.
Another part of this multi-headed beast is that the stories themselves have become increasingly sophisticated, which makes it difficult for the technology to spot in the first place. Artificial Intelligence imagery has advanced in the last few years, which is helping to spot the fake news, but it’s also being used to create fake videos in the first place. In order to prevent that from happening again – to the benefit of anyone – a solution needs to be created. Unfortunately, the technology can be immaculately designed and perfected, but without legislative oversight, there is going to be a huge gap and the technology won’t be effective.
After the 2016 election, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg downplayed fake news, but he later went back on that stance, saying that he took the problem seriously. In June of this year, Zuckerberg walked it back even further, saying that Facebook made an “execution mistake” when it didn’t act fast enough to identify a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where her speech was slurred and distorted.
While there isn’t an easy solution for this, it seems that technology and legislation need to work together. The legislative oversight will help to ensure that the technology is still working and effective. In addition, it will also help to stay on top of the rapid changes that occur in the world of fake news and the spreading of misinformation. Hopefully, Congress gets on board with this concept before the 2020 Presidential Election.