How to Kill Fake News

09 May 2017

 

Image source: https://19thlevel.blogspot.co.za/2016/11/fake-news-of-future.html

How To Kill Fake News…

 

Fake it till you make it

Fake news (also known as ‘alternative facts’ or propaganda) has become the norm in the modern digital age. Fake news has existed since the time of Adam & Eve - rulers, governments and advertisers have long used it to steer popular perception. However, the cost to create and spread fake news, as with many things in the digital age, has reduced. No longer is this the domain of those with all of the money and the power. With enough guile, one can set up a fake news site and begin churning out a litany of illegitimate literature. If the articles being produced have enough relevance and resonance with a particular group, the ‘echo-chamber snowball effect’ created by search engines and social media starts to kick in. Fake news has never been so easy to create and spread, with such unprecedented speed and impact.

Fake Society Falls

BBC Future Now asked a panel of experts about the grand challenges we face in the 21st Century – and many of them named the breakdown of trusted sources of information as one of the most pressing problems of today. If news sources cannot be trusted, the purpose of journalism to uncover the truth and to expose illegality is undermined, if not entirely lost. Where fake sources exist, there exists no accountability. If fake news continues with its current growth trajectory, it threatens the very systems set in place to guard our society.

64% of American adults said made-up news stories were causing confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events - Pew Research Center, 2016.

Fake News Is Everywhere

Ironically there is evidence of fake news wherever you look. The Trump presidency is dogged by numerous reports that fake news (ostensibly started by the Russians) paved the way for Trump’s victory. Fake news has also recently reared its ugly head in a devastating way in South Africa. If you haven’t yet heard of the Shelley Garland scandal, the basis of the scandal is as follows:

  • Shelley Garland sends a blog post to The Huffington Post titled “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?”
  • The vitriolic post went viral gaining global traction.
  • The blog led to a public outcry and was subsequently taken down by The Huffington Post.
  • Upon further investigation, it became clear that a.) Shelley Garland wasn’t a real person and b.) some of the damning claims made in the article were entirely fake.
  • Marius Roodt was eventually exposed as the man behind the fake author Shelley Garland’s persona.

“Having a large number of people in a society who are misinformed is absolutely devastating and extremely difficult to cope with” - Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol

How To Kill Fake News

To kill fake news we need to do two things:

  1. Verify the Source - We need to verify the identity and credibility of the source of the information. When you can trust the source, there is a level of accountability that is built into the story.
  2. Verify the Information - We need to set up a process that ensures the validity and credibility of the information received. Background checking is essential to stamping out fake news.

Just as technology has fuelled the democratisation and normalisation of fake news, it can be used to kill it.

Verify the Source

Using modern multipoint identity verification technology from a company like ThisIsMe allows us to verify the source of the information. For example, through a simple process of matching your selfie to your verified identity document you are able to add a level of verification to your identity - thus verifying the source of information that you’ve shared as coming from you. Should you require a higher level of verification, ThisIsMe also offers a more comprehensive verification method that is achieved through the individual's banking profile.

A requirement by all publishers wishing to be seen as legitimate sources of information (such as news corporations) is to verify the source of their articles. Additionally, identity verification can be applied to the comments section on news sites, whereby individuals’ identities are required to be verified before they’re allowed access to the comments section. That is not to say that the person commenting can not remain anonymous, but rather that their true identity is known to ThisIsMe and can be called upon in the event of libellous or defamatory statements being made.

Verify the Information

It goes without saying that the information used in articles needs to be checked for validity. The enormous amount of information that is available today and the speed with which it needs to be shared, adds pressure to this fact checking process. Fortunately, fact checking technology is growing in popularity as a counter-punch to the fake news syndrome. Companies like Facebook and Google have recently launched their own versions of fact checking technology, in response to public pressure for these media giants to take steps to do their part to mitigate fake news from spreading. Sites like Snopes.com also exist as watchdogs for fake news.

 

What if...

Q: What if identifying the source prevents the release of information that can only be released anonymously?

A: There always needs to be a level of identification behind the release of information in order to measure its credibility. At least one person needs to be identified by at least another credible person for information to be shared in good conscience.

Q: What if there are less opinions being shared due to fear of reprisal?

A: There will more than likely be less opinions expressed in an unacceptable manner. Whether there are less opinions expressed owing to fear of reprisal is yet to be seen. It is something that still needs to be tested and at the very least it acts as a filter for authentic dialogue as opposed to vehement vitriol.

We need to kill fake news before it causes any further damage to our society.

Yours Sincerely

Shelley Garland (Just kidding)

 

Contact ThisIsMe to arrange a full system demonstration and to discuss your company's KYC and compliance requirements.

David Thomas

Co-founder and Head of Product, ThisIsMe

 

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/2017/04/19/revealed-here-is-shelley-garland-and-why-he-did-it_a_22046533/

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html

https://memeburn.com/2017/04/huffington-post-south-africa-blog/

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170228-a-guide-to-humanitys-greatest-challenges

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170301-lies-propaganda-and-fake-news-a-grand-challenge-of-our-age

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