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

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 20, 2020 - Technology

Adobe gets creative during the coronavirus pandemic

Image: Adobe

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the tech world — not only for those companies that make remote work possible, but even for those whose products and services might not seem to have much to do with the pandemic at all.

The big picture: Adobe offers a case study in adapting to our new reality, plugging forward with a long-planned product roadmap while also trying to remain relevant with new products that ease collaboration and help identify misinformation.

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Axios-Ipsos poll: Federal response has only gotten worse — The swing states where the pandemic is raging.
  2. Health: The coronavirus is starting to crush some hospitals — 13 states set single-day case records last week.
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events.
  6. World: Unrest in Italy as restrictions grow across Europe.
  7. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.

Pre-bunking rises ahead of the 2020 election

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Tech platforms are no longer satisfied with debunking falsehoods — now they're starting to invest in efforts that preemptively show users accurate information to help them counter falsehoods later on.

Why it matters: Experts argue that pre-bunking can be a more effective strategy for combative misinformation than fact-checking. It's also a less polarizing way to address misinformation than trying to apply judgements to posts after they've been shared.

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