Mar 30, 2017

Fake news adapts

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:

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