[SOLVED] : how to Counter Fake news and Deep fakes with pragmatic measures

Disinformation and false culture

Disinformation is not a technological innovation, on the other hand digital technologies favor it. The creation of content of all kinds is also encouraged by the use of digital technologies which are made available to every Internet user. The facilities for connecting, posting, clicking, rating, following and transmitting allow almost free and instantaneous distribution of all content.

False information (Fake news) is real – fake news, created explicitly to manipulate the opinions of the people it is intended for. It is now possible, using the deep learning techniques of artificial intelligence, to create fake-real information (Deep fake). This makes it possible to modify, replace photos, substitute and swap all or part of images or sound content, to manufacture new content on the basis of a model to be imitated, etc. Barak Obama’s false – true speech testifies to this, as is the video of Argentine President Mauricio Macri, transformed into Hitler or that of Angela Merkel presented in the guise of Donald Trump for example.

Since 2017, the phenomenon of video rigging, initially applied to portray personalities on counterfeit pornographic videos, has gained momentum and is available to fuel satire but above all manipulation for political ends and destabilization. This worries the public authorities and questions the role and responsibilities of the latter but also of service providers and technical intermediaries, such as those of Internet users.

Although image faking has been around for a long time, especially facilitated by software such as Photoshop for example and although it is well known, these “embellished” images are still misleading and distort reality.

The modification, “improvement” of images are often carried out to highlight products for commercial purposes and to fall within an advertising process, which is supposed to be legally framed. However, the proliferation of retouched images contributes to a certain formatting of thought and modes of action by creating new aesthetic standards. The number is imposed de facto as a reference.

Legitimized by an artistic approach, the cinema resorts to special effects, special effects or even professional stuntmen. The illusion is then legal since “it’s cinema! “. The special effects are identifiable, explicable and explained.

The fake news in a way maintains a relationship to reality similar to that of the novel. The title of Louis Aragon’s short story “Le mentir-courte”, published in 1964, sums up the situation in itself. The romantic is, by blurring the boundaries to reality, both invention and non-invention, imaginary and fragment of reality.

With the Internet, fake news and deep fakes, the illusion of truth is total, with for the user the inability to differentiate the true from the false. The “real” is made by computer coding, without being based on real and verifiable facts. Reality does not need to exist because all that matters is the existence of digital content that is broadcast, seen, listened to and liked! Fake news has become par excellence new weapons in the service of propaganda, destabilization, harassment or even defamation.

The important thing is the click, not the veracity

Since the business models of the service providers of the linking platforms are based on connectivity, user interaction, their attention span, content consumption, data and metadata exploitation , in online advertising, fakes news is like any other content vectors of profitability. Whether the contents are satirical or defamatory, prejudicial to the physical and moral integrity of people, funny or not, in fact whether they are true or false does not matter, as long as they are broadcast and “seen”!

With social networks, personal beliefs can be shared endlessly and can, by force, take on the appearance of fact. Poster is to exist! There are those who produce content, those who consume it. There are those who deliberately or unconsciously transmit fake news, those who retransmit, who like or who deny (but in doing so help to repeat), those who are paid to do so and those who are not… Virality on the Internet is a success factor!

The era of opinion and post-truth

It seems that the information age as promoted at the start of the Web just over 30 years ago has evolved into that of opinion, concomitantly reinforced by the post-truth age. Do we want a web opinion amplifier?

A untruth is a lie, a post-truth is beyond a lie. It is the ability to say anything – without limit, without any real basis based on objectivable and verifiable facts. With facts now qualified as alternatives, depending on the circumstances, there is no need to lie, to pretend. It is enough to create them and make them exist on the Internet, to shape public opinion, to create emotions and opinions. When reality is a problem for some, they do not hesitate to modify it through digital technology. Rumors and anonymity are the pillars of post-truth. The reality of content is confused with the existence of content. Not to mention the various trolls and chat robots that industrialize the distribution of content.

It seems that having lost our personal data and the taste for privacy and respect for privacy we have also given up respect for the truth! This is undoubtedly linked to “the free” and to the feeling of impunity that comes from being able to communicate at a distance, hidden behind a screen, hidden by technical intermediaries, possible false identities, usurped identities and anonymity. This also gives more power and capacity to some to harass and disseminate violent content.

Measures to build confidence

Counterfeiters have always existed; to be convinced of this, one need only think of the manufacturers of counterfeit banknotes for which technical solutions have been provided to make the manufacture of counterfeits more difficult and their identification easier. Complementary measures relating to the law and its application, in justice and police matters, have also been developed to better control this type of crime and penalize their perpetrators.

Similarly, if we cannot completely prevent the production of fake news and deep fake, there may be incentives not to generate them, to disseminate them as solutions to detect them. Thus, for example, there may be different types of measures. Without wishing to be exhaustive, here are a few structured around four axes:

Education measures

  • Public awareness and media education. Development of people’s critical thinking, of understanding the concepts of freedom of expression and protection of fundamental human rights.
  • Understanding of the risks and consequences of disinformation.
  • Learn to identify who produces information (disinformation), for what purpose and what benefits.
  • Learning to decode images, videos, their metadata, to verify their origin, to search for “their fellows”, to make deep fakes, …
  • Master the different levels and degrees of reading content.
  • Relearn that to exist it is not necessarily necessary to leave electronic traces, comments, repost opinions, etc. and that convictions are not facts.

Technical measures

  • Implementation of cryptographic mechanisms. Sensitive content, especially during election periods, should be signed using cryptographic data encryption techniques which would ensure their authenticity and integrity (concept of document marking). Technical solutions already exist!
  • Forensic computing tools applied to videos should be widely available to better detect fakes, including manipulation of faces and voices.
  • Have tools for detecting and identifying fake news. The major problem is to know who is empowered to distinguish and qualify content as true or false, without this amounting to a new form of censorship.
  • Limit the visibility of sites and accounts at the origin of fake news, block them.
  • To be able to identify the origin, the author of content.

Incentive, economic and organizational measures

  • Promote research and denunciation of “fake” (set up incentives (of the “bug bounty” type), processes and organizational structures that allow it (notification agency for fakes), …). Have procedures and means for denouncing fake news (platform, reporting and registration center) at national level and networking all centers of this type at European and even international level.
  • Foster dialogue between public and private actors regarding content responsibility (creation, provision, destruction).
  • Drain the advertising resources of accounts that contribute to the dissemination of fake news.
  • Identify political advertisements.
  • Provide citizens with additional means to make informed decisions.
  • Support press freedom and have independent media and fact-checking skills.
  • Develop tools for responding to fake news.

Regulatory and legal measures

  • Repositories of good practices, regulations and laws may exist to put limits on abusive behavior linked to disinformation and the manipulation of information. Since September 2018, there has been a Code of Practice relating to disinformation set out by the European Commission. An action plan against disinformation has been adopted to strengthen cooperation between Member States and Union institutions. In France, a law on the manipulation of information during an election period has existed since December 2018.
  • Equip countries with measures that allow the illegal use of personal data to be penalized to deliberately influence the outcome of elections.
  • Establish an obligation of transparency towards digital platforms in all matters relating to sponsored content (this includes in particular the targeting of advertising of people for political purposes).

Some perspectives

Now that voters and citizens are seen as consumers, managed as customers, and election campaigns are more like a campaign to commercialize politics and politicians, it is no surprise that there is political advertising online and all kinds of public opinion manipulation mechanisms. It remains to find how to regulate, how to educate individuals so that they demand not to be restricted to the roles of unenlightened consumers, not to be seen as robots of flesh and blood that can be exploited endlessly.

To face the reign of mistrust and lies, let us dare to give a taste for the search for the truth, for that which is part of a philosophical, even spiritual quest. It requires courage, knowledge, reflection, effort, long time … It is a complex task which relies on the diversity of sources and actors, on freedom and diversity, not on unification and standardization of information.