Researchers have broadened the controversial technology called "deepfakes" — AI-generated media that experts fear could roil coming elections by convincingly depicting people saying or doing things they never did.
Driving the news: A new computer program, created at OpenAI, the San Francisco AI lab, is the latest front in deepfakes, producing remarkably human-sounding prose that opens the prospect of fake news circulated at industrial scale.
Every weapon is on the table in the war against democracy-disrupting deepfakes — from technology to detect the AI-altered videos and audio to legislation that would punish creating and distributing them.
The big problem is that these solutions don't work yet. So a third approach is gaining traction: developing a way to verify that a video hasn't been altered.
The National Enquirer is sparking a media crossover, with activists pushing to persuade stores to stop carrying tabloids in light of recent scandals around the publication.
Why it matters: So much of the attention on fake and malignant news has been on the platforms — Google, Facebook and Twitter. But a major chunk of the questionable media consumed in America is still seen in print, often in the checkout aisle.
Deepfakes — digitally forged videos that can be impossible to detect — are called the end of truth, a threat to democracy and a potential disruption to society. Everyone agrees on the danger, but no one has figured out what to do about it.
But now Congress and several states are considering the first legislation against AI-altered videos and audio — suggesting a coming barrage of such laws.
Fake Washington Post papers filled with anti-Trump stories were distributed around D.C. on Wednesday morning, the real Washington Post reports.
Details: The fake paper, which was supplemented with a live online edition, led with a front page story reporting that President Trump has left office. Per the Post, a video was posted by liberal activist group Code Pink of its founder Medea Benjamin passing out papers and saying, "The crisis is over — Trump has left the White House." Liberal advocacy group MoveOn was suspected to possibly be behind the fake papers, but the organization tweeted: "While we love the headline, we didn't produce today's satirical Washington Post."
Fake social media accounts that advocated for a statewide alcohol ban in Alabama in 2017 were actually a progressive ploy to dissuade moderate Republicans away from voting for Roy Moore in the state's Senate race that year, the New York Times reports.
Why it matters: Politicians from both the left and right have always used media manipulation tactics in order to boost their election efforts. However, technology and social media have increasingly blurred the lines on what's real and what isn't. It's the second such small-scale effort used by Democratic operatives in the race, per NYT, which uncovered a ploy last month to imitate Russian tactics in an attempt to divide potential Moore voters.
Richard Stengel — MSNBC political analyst, and former Under Secretary of State in the Obama administration — tells me he has finished a book called "Info Wars: How We Lost the Global Information War."
The backdrop: Stengel, former editor of TIME and CEO of the National Constitution Center, has been working on the book since the end of the Obama administration, and will offer it to publishers this week.
Truepic, a startup that authenticates digital photos, is scooping up a rival technology developed by one of the field's leading experts. The company is buying San Jose-based Fourandsix Technologies, whose fake image detector was licensed by DARPA earlier this year.
Why it matters: Determining whether digital images are genuine has become increasingly important in an era of rampant misinformation, and it's already commercially critical in fields like insurance.
Dictionary.com has selected "misinformation" as its 2018 word of the year, defining it as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead,” reports AP.
The big picture: Search results on Dictionary.com suggested that society's "relationship with truth" has become a common theme, with words like "mainstream," "white lie" and "Orwellian" among those that spiked at various points this year, per AP. Social media platforms have come under intense scrutiny in 2018 for their role in spreading misinformation that incites violence — as in Myanmar, for example, where investigators say Facebook played "a determining role" in disseminating hateful rhetoric about Rohingya Muslims.
Dozens of new initiatives have launched over the past few years to address fake news and the erosion of faith in the media, creating a measurement problem of its own.
Why it matters: So many new efforts are launching simultaneously to solve the same problem that it’s become difficult to track which ones do what and which ones are partnering with each other.