Fake News for the Week Ending August 9, 2019

What’s going on in the fake world this week? Try these nuggets on for size:

  • Fake news can swing both ways. Case in point, a manipulated photo making the rounds of Ivanka Trump wearing a swastika-like logo on her shirt. She didn’t, the photo’s a fake. FactCheck.org does the usual debunking.

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    • Speaking of fakes, check out this deepfake video that superimposes the face of “Parks and Recreation’s” Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) on the entire cast of the 1980s/1990s sitcom “Full House.” As deepfakes go, it’s pretty impressive and, in this instance, pretty hilarious. But consider use of similar technology to place the faces of real politicians on more inflammatory or embarrassing videos. It can and will happen.
  • The FBI has identified “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” in particular believers in the QAnon conspiracy, as a significant and growing terrorist threat. (This was before last weekend’s mass shooting by a white supremacist in El Paso, Texas.) The Bureau goes on to say that these conspiracy theory-driven threats are likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election. Yeah, fake news can lead and has led to violence. Yahoo! News has the story here.
  • As appalling and potentially dangerous as fake news can be, it’s important to remember than in the United States it’s protected by the First Amendment. Not so in other countries; in fact, some countries have enacted or are considering enacting legislation restricting the spread of fake news. Unfortunately, these laws are sometimes used to repress critics of that country’s government. Case in point, the authoritarian government of the Philippines is considering just such legislation, dubbed the “Anti-False Content Act.” In this instance, the legislation encourages citizens to report “false content” to the government, and then mandates stiff prison terms and fines against individuals who “create and/or publish” false and misleading content in social media sites, blogs and websites. It also goes after those platforms (“intermediaries”), such as Facebook and Twitter, that publish this content. One can sympathize with the harm done by fake news without feeling the need to trample on civil rights. Read about it on TechDirt.
  • Business Insider has a lot more detail about the Russian troll farms responsible for disseminating massive amounts of fake news during the 2016 election. It was a serious, very organized operation. Read the whole story here.

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