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On Wednesday, September 30, Axios' Ina Fried hosted a conversation featuring University of California, Berkeley professor Hany Farid and disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center Nina Jankowicz on the future of the media landscape — a place where bad actors have increasingly sought to exploit fears with fake or manipulative information.

Professor Hany Farid discussed risks posed by increasingly realistic computer synthesized images, its impact on global political systems and the responsibility of technology companies to address its social implications.

  • On the tipping point of 'deepfakes': "I think is the real risk of what is to come, which is once we enter a world where everything could be fake, well, then nothing has to be real."
  • On the responsibility of tech companies and social media platforms: "Algorithms are amplifying the most divisive, the most hateful, the most conspiratorial, the most outrageous, because that engages people and that maximizes profit."

Nina Jankowicz unpacked Russian disinformation online, comparing the differences between the 2016 American presidential campaign to today.

  • The goal of disinformation campaigns in democratic societies: "[In 2016] we saw Russia amplifying discord and discontent on both sides of the political spectrum. This isn't necessarily about one party or another...they're taking societal fissures and exploiting them and amplifying them to turn societies against one another and ultimately undermine the functioning of our democracies."
  • On how to make long term change: "We can't just continue playing whack-a-troll...We need to look at more systematic approaches to countering disinformation, including building up media and digital literacy campaigns not only for school aged children, but for the voting age population as well."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Adobe Executive Vice President Dana Rao who discussed image attribution and how this can contribute to verifying images in an era of deepfakes.

  • "The basis of democracy is a shared understanding of facts...If we can't agree on what the facts are, we can't do anything about policies like climate change or addressing any of the real issues of our time. It's pretty easy to edit videos and images and create fiction from fact. The problem with images and video is people believe them."

Thank you Adobe for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2018 - World

Russia is winning its war of disinformation

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

U.S. intelligence says Russia sought to disrupt the 2016 and 2018 elections and sow discord. Regardless of what Robert Mueller does, Russia did it — and is still at it.

The big picture: Multiple high-stakes, aggressive federal investigations were spawned by an initial FBI probe of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. And fallout from Russian meddling, including Democratic talk of impeaching President Trump, is likely to remain a dominant political issue as Democrats take over the House 17 days from now.

Jan 7, 2020 - Technology
Series / Misinformation age

How Iran's disinformation threat differs from Russia

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America "needs to be prepared for retaliation in the hard cyber space and soft information space" after killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, says a top expert at the Atlantic Council.

Why it matters: Iranian influence operations to-date have been different than other state-backed disinformation campaigns, particularly from Russia.

Tech's biggest upcoming battles in 2020

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The most consequential stories for tech in 2020 pit the industry's corporate colossi against the U.S. government, foreign nations, and the human needs of their own customers.

Why it matters: Today's tech giants own and operate the informational hubs that increasingly shape our public and private lives. That's putting their products and policies under greater scrutiny than ever before.

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