Fake News: How Is It Spread?

How It Works
Tweets, false news articles, video and memes are supplied to those most vulnerable to buy into them. Confirmation bias, validating one’s preexisting beliefs, renders the process very effective. After the targeted narrative is seen, organic sharing via social media propagates the deception.

Impact
Sharing unchecked misinformation establishes false narratives that appear real then go viral as more and more people believe it. This has been documented to have affected elections in the U.K. Brexit Vote, 2016 American Elections and 2018 Brazilian Elections.

Fake Social Media Accounts and Fake News Sites on Facebook

There is a litany of online companies that sell their ability to create fake social media profiles. While this goes against the Terms of Service of every social media platform, the use of these profile generators has allowed billions of fake accounts to be created and then used by national and foreign entities. Adding to this mix the ability to create websites that have the appearance of official news, the situation empowers individuals with alternative agendas to create fake news, send it out to fake profiles, and then dissipate it throughout the social media platforms using psychographics to locate those that will believe and share.

How It Works
Foreign intelligence agencies and in particular, Russian Intelligence has devoted decades to manipulating American public opinion as well as causing distrust in government. Part of their plans have included creating and supporting a variety of organizations whose purpose was to appear political or social, but with an agenda to undermine. Each of these organizations had websites as well as fake social media profiles and shared information to real individuals, who then joined and shared with like-minded friends.

Impact
Attention to this enormous problem became national news when a Senate committee interviewed Mark Zuckerberg about the blatant out-of-control acceptance of fake profiles and fake news sources on Facebook and potential impact on the 2016 American Elections. Since that time, Facebook has removed over 1.6 billion false Facebook accounts.

Bot Amplification on Twitter

Those that make use of Twitter for their social media understand that it is one of the most fluid of communication methods. Likes, Tweets, and shares have developed to such a fine degree that they are being used to gauge sentiment of what the public is thinking and believing.

How It Works
Twitter’s open platform allows it to be more easily manipulated by bots, and this creates a game-changer for pushing specific agendas across Twitter. Once done, those that are in charge of the bots have made a deliberate change in the landscape of popularity and opinion; altering what is real and creating fake information and news.

Impact
Meanwhile, unwitting real Twitter users are reading, accepting, sharing, and digesting fake information that is designed to change their thinking process.

AI Generated News on YouTube

AI videos are incredibly entertaining in the movie theater, but not so when designed to pass along blatantly misrepresented lies. Our technologies have advanced to the point that almost anyone can access an AI software program, and create a realistic video that is entirely false. Also known as “deepfake,” the problem has been elevated to such a degree that they are being considered a national security threat and are being investigated by U.S. lawmakers

How It Works
Individuals that are uneducated or just unaware of how deep AI generated fake information is are often those that are sharing these videos as proof or validation of an opinion or point. This condition escalated during the 2016 Presidential election when AI generated YouTube videos were being shared included those of President Obama and Hillary Clinton making statements that were completely fabricated. These videos were shared on social media and became just a few of some of the most popular videos of the conservative mindset.

Impact
“The big worry is that foreign governments will one day fool millions of Americans with AI-generated fake video or audio. Imagine a US politician being depicted as making a racist comment and the clip going viral right before an election. Thanks to today’s machine learning algorithms, a bad actor might be able to pull this off. ” – PC WORLD

Media Literacy Questions to Discern Fake News:

What source created the message?

We know that the media constructs the articles, but we often only see the front face that is being presented. There is a need to have background research on who was the individual, company, or organization that crafted the message.

Are the messages by the media constructed with the use of a creative language and having rules that are their own?

Certain media sources have particular styles of writing and reporting which can be identified; however, some also make use of guidelines and rules to craft their messages with specific language formats for the purpose of influencing opinion and thought.

What tools/techniques were made use of to get my attention?

Examine why a message grabbed your attention to see if there is a distinctive negative or positive technique or tool used.

Is the message designed to be experienced differently by different types of people?

Words and pictures can be translated in a variety of ways based on perception grounded in experience.

What source created the message?Does this source have an innate personal agenda, point of view, or values?

Many sources have specific business models that require positioning information to circle back and complement.

Are there any points of view, values, agendas omitted and or represented in the message?

Look to see if there is a hidden purpose for the report/news deliberately designed that appeases the source’s point of view/agenda with intent to influence you.

Is this reporting, story, image wrapped around ultimate goal(s) of power and profit?

Attracting the right demographic will reinforce the popularity of each media source and allow them to attain increased revenue and power over the populace.

What is the purpose of this message?

Examine what the source is trying to get you to understand, believe, think, rearrange, or be shocked by and will it ultimately enhance the source in some way.