Dec 27, 2018

The overwhelming fakeness of today's internet

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There's a reckoning coming over fakeness online, as people increasingly realize the dangers of an online ecosystem where everything is definitely not all right.

The big picture: "Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real," Max Read writes for New York Magazine.

  • "How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot."
  • "The internet has always played host in its dark corners to schools of catfish and embassies of Nigerian princes, but that darkness now pervades its every aspect."

Why it matters: Legit media companies and businesses need to be making decisions for their human customers. That gets harder for everyone when bots and fake metrics swamp the internet.

A partial list of fake things online, compiled by NYMag:

  • Metrics: Facebook is being sued over how its video view count is measured.
  • People: Faked video views, sold by the thousands, and "click farms" where phones and computers are controlled to watch content or visit sites.
  • Content: On the benign side, you can find YouTube videos with versions of popular children's characters like Elsa from "Frozen." On the malignant side, there are "deepfakes" that will blur the line of reality.

Be smart, from some of my Axios colleagues:

  • Tech editor Scott Rosenberg: "Fake metrics" have always been with us — from print circulation figures, which were always inflated, to the infamously unreliable Nielsen box. Fake is cheaper than ever online so there's more of it, but so much of it is a shadow-puppet play being performed in the ad marketplace with very little actual impact on users. (But lots on businesses.)
  • Rameez Tase, VP of Audience Development & Insights: "Much of the ecosystem is built on false premises: People create fake news to get fake traffic, reinforced by fake metrics, predicated on business models that don't work. Then it seeps into real-life discourse, where people discuss fake news as if it's real."

Go deeper, via Axios' Sara Fischer, who writes our weekly Media Trends newsletter:

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,405,029 — Total deaths: 344,997 — Total recoveries — 2,168,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,642,021 — Total deaths: 97,698 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans sue California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.