Experts are seeing malicious groups, both foreign and domestic, shift to more advanced campaigns of disinformation than they had in 2016, Nina Jankowicz, disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, said Wednesday at an Axios virtual event.
Why it matters: The method, called "disinformation laundering," targets false ideas or conspiracy theories that could become legitimized through media or public figures and politicians.
The technology to produce fake video and audio has become sophisticated enough to make doctored or wholly fabricated images and sound impossible for the public to detect, Hany Farid, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences & School of Information, said Wednesday at an Axios virtual event.
The big picture: Deepfakes, or computer-synthesized images, audio or video, have caused experts to worry about Silicon Valley's ability to meet the challenge of tracking and stopping these AI-generated clips once they become widespread.
A baseless conspiracy theory that Joe Biden would wear an electronic device in his ear during the first presidential debate on Tuesday went viral on social media hours before the event.
Why it matters: The conspiracy originated on social media before appearing in a text message sent by President Trump’s re-election campaign to supporters. It was then regurgitated by media outlets like Fox News and New York Post, who cited the Trump campaign, throughout the day, according to NBC News.
On the eve of the first presidential debate, the Biden campaign is pressing Facebook to remove posts by President Trump — and slamming the social media company as "the nation’s foremost propagator of disinformation about the voting process."
Why it matters: By publicly escalating the conflict, the campaign is pressing Facebook to enforce its policies against misinformation more aggressively.
Facebook will continue to be the face of the biggest industry campaign against misinformation leading up to the election, according to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League
Driving the news: In an interview with Axios, Greenblatt, whose group is part of the Stop Hate for Profit social media boycott campaign, said that the group plans to focus its boycott efforts on Facebook, because of its scale and because he says the company is less proactive than rivals like Twitter and YouTube on policing misinformation and hate speech.
Conspiracy theories about the origin of fires in Oregon are still spreading through private Facebook groups days after the social media giant announced it would remove the false claims, according to research from the German Marshall Fund of the United States shared exclusively with Axios.
Why it matters: Facebook's efforts to control misinformation on its vast platform continue to lag behind the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories about life-and-death crises, and researchers are urging earlier and stronger action, especially as the election gets closer and the coronavirus continues to rage in the country.
Gen Z may be more immune to the lure of misinformation because younger people apply more context, nuance and skepticism to their online information consumption, experts and new polling suggests.
Why it matters: An innate understanding of social media influence, virality and algorithms among Gen Z — defined by Pew as the cohort born between 1997 and 2012 — could disarm the misinformation and disinformation racking the U.S.
The run-up to the U.S. presidential election is also speeding up the arrival of a tipping point for digital fakery in politics, Axios' Ashley Gold reports.
What's happening: As the election, a pandemic and a national protest movement collide with new media technology, this political moment is accelerating the proliferation and evolution of deliberately deceptive media, leaving companies struggling to enforce often-vague policies.
Mark Zuckerberg tells "Axios on HBO" that Facebook is imposing new election rules to deter use of the platform to spread of misinformation and even violence, and to help voters see the results as "legitimate and fair."
Twitter on Monday labeled a tweet from the Trump campaign's "War Room" account "manipulated media" for posting a misleading clip of Joe Biden saying, "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America!"
Reality check: More context would have shown that Biden was quoting President Trump and Vice President Pence as saying, "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America," during a speech in which the Democratic nominee was condemning violent protests and Trump's response to social unrest.