Hans Lovejoy, editor
‘The first casualty when war comes is truth’, US senator Hiram Johnson (1866–1945) reportedly said.
As the dust settles from May 18, the first casualty from the federal election appears political polling, with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax, owned by Nine) having ‘pressed pause’ on publishing predictions from polling companies such as Ipsos and others. The move follows anger and confusion at the misleading federal election prediction.
Busting our collective perceptions about polling that uses outdated technologies is a good start towards a clearer understanding of whatever truth is.
Next would be holding social media giant Facebook to account for allowing misinformation and lies to spread. Last week, Facebook admitted that it knew a fake video of US senator Nancy Pelosi appearing drunk was shared millions of times on its platform, yet says it won’t remove fake videos because it’s not in the news business. Even Murdoch’s US Fox network reported the video of Pelosi to be fake.
Facebook have always been firmly in the fake-news business and have never understood or cared for the important job of news dissemination and analysis. On Twitter and other social media platforms that are replied upon for ‘news’, fake news has become embedded into the psyche.
The latest tool for furthering illiterate distrust and division is called deep fake. Its origins began in 2016 with the launch of the Face2Face program. It modifies video footage of a person’s face to depict them mimicking the facial expressions of another person in real time. That technology has developed into deepfake, with doctored pornography (including revenge porn) surfacing on the internet around 2017.
In January 2018, a free desktop application called FakeApp was launched, which allows users to easily create and share videos with faces swapped.
Mass deception from artificial intelligence (AI) has now again leapt to a new level, with www.sciencealert.com reporting last week that the Samsung AI Center, based in Moscow, have developed a way to create ‘living portraits’ from a very small dataset (as small as a single photograph, in a few models). Realistic talking heads can be generated from a single image, including putting words into their mouths.
Yet despite the impending uncertainty of reality, Finland appears to be winning the war on fake news.
According to www.cnn.com, since 2014, students have been taught a checklist of methods to deceive readers on social media. They include image and video manipulations, half-truths, intimidation, and false profiles. Bot (AI robot) and stock photo identification is also covered, along with assessing the volume of posts per day and a lack of personal information.