Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Fake news creators are becoming more creative in the face of efforts to stamp them out, pivoting from circulating their own misleading stories to developing sophisticated techniques that manipulate real news.

Why it matters: Per Pew, 84% of adults feel either very or somewhat confident in their ability to spot traditional fake news stories. Fake news creators are trying harder to outsmart them.

Here are a few recent examples of sophisticated fake news techniques:

  • Altered Facebook headlines: A conservative group backing a Virginia gubernatorial candidate altered the headline of a local newspaper to misrepresent the truth about an opposing candidate's position, causing the post to go viral.
  • Misleading attribution: Last week, Russian TV channel Russia 24 repeatedly aired a photo of a knife-wielding man outside of the British Parliament from an unrelated incident in 2013, in an attempt to frame the incident as an Islamic terrorist attack, before authorities released details on the suspect.
  • Made up think tanks and opinions pieces: A fake think tank called Center for Global Strategic Monitoring (CGS Monitor), which publishes Russian propaganda alongside think pieces, attributes some of its writings and opinion pieces to real think tank experts who had nothing to do with them. CGS Monitor even lists some of those people as experts on their site.

Some accidental fake news shows the public's susceptibility: After the GOP health care bill was defeated Thursday, a satirical addition to a New York Times story about Paul Ryan listening to Papa Roach circulated on Twitter, but so many people believed the photoshopped image, the author had to clarify to his followers it was just a joke.

What's next: A Stanford University study shows how new technologies can alter facial expressions in real time to change the context of someone's reactions. Here's an example that a technologist did on George W. Bush's facial expressions during an interview last year:

Go deeper

SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

Trump and Biden during the final debate. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

Hunter Biden saga dominates online debate

Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Health

America's poor health is jeopardizing its future

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

From high levels of obesity and opioid addiction to inequities in access to care, America's pre-existing conditions make the country an easy target for COVID-19, as well as future pandemics that could cripple the United States for decades to come.

Why it matters: One of the best ways the country could prepare for future threats — and boost its economy — is to improve Americans' overall health.