Deepfakes, #fakenews and the problem of trust

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Rakuen Growlithe
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Deepfakes, #fakenews and the problem of trust

#1

Post by Rakuen Growlithe »

There's been some drama in the science Twitter world recently when people, who were mourning the death of @Sciencing_Bi from COVID-19, found out that she never really existed and seems to have been made up by BethAnn McLaughlin who founded MeTooSTEM. (https://gizmodo.com/science-twitter-got ... 1844591277 and https://www.chronicle.com/article/did-t ... ill-it-off) This was a long-running con as @Sciencing_Bi was created in 2016, potentially to deflect criticisms of BethAnn's interactions with non-white scientists. Now there's a whole lot to discuss about this debacle but it particularly caught my attention because of something else I read recently…

There was a story about Oliver Taylor, who was particularly interested in Jewish affairs, who accused a man and his wife, who campaign's for Palestinian rights, of being terrorists. The only problem was… Oliver Taylor never existed either! (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cybe ... SKCN24G15E) Now, I hesitate to call that a deepfake as, while there was some fake profile image, writing under a pseudonym is perfectly normal and accepted practice. The deception, however, is not.

Fake people and imagery do obviously exist. It's easy to make a fake account under a fake name. You can use pictures from all over the internet or make new ones. With increased computing power, you can even make fake videos of real people. That's one thing that is really scary. Anyone can fake chat logs but how are you going to convince people the fake video of you (or more realistically of some political figure) is not actually real? Twitter has verified accounts but recently a 17-year-old Florida boy broke into Twitter and could tweet from verified accounts. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/31/twitter ... r-old.html) We can be picky about our news sources and hope they verify information but, as the Oliver Taylor story shows, pseudonyms, which are vital for some people and not something we should get rid of, as well as attacks that has put fake stories into real news outlets (https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-res ... paign.html) make that unreliable as a safeguard.

All of this takes place in the background of a highly-polarised and tribal world where there is little trust and it takes little for people to jump to the worst possible interpretation of anything. Are we moving to a world we can't trust anything or anyone? How are we going to know what is true and not even beyond the standard manipulation techniques?
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
~John Milton~
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Rakuen Growlithe
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Re: Deepfakes, #fakenews and the problem of trust

#2

Post by Rakuen Growlithe »

Related to this topic, there is a long read about psychology being used to secretly manipulate people's thoughts and decisions: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/invi ... -your-mind
Sunstein and Thaler have described the political philosophy of such interventions as Libertarian Paternalism. It is “libertarian” because they do not impose mandates to narrow people’s choice, but merely frame choices or provide incentives that tend to make people “better off, as judged by themselves.” Their claim is that this form of influence, albeit often unconscious, is not manipulative or coercive because the possibility of a person choosing differently is not closed down.
Some of these changes are seen as positive, like making people have retirement plans by default or automatically signing people up as organ donors and requiring someone to opt out. There is not really any negative effect on the person and a large positive effect either for them or society as a whole. The issue that comes up is when those "nudges" are used to make people do something that they would normally not want to do. And while there are also questions about the validity of this research, the fact that people are willing to use it, is cause enough for concern.

On a minor side note, the piece above makes reference to the irrationality of many human decisions. There is though, a fairly interesting blog by philosopher Kevin Dorst that disagrees with many claims of human irrationality and discusses the reasons why. Many of the posts are quite interesting though sometimes they seem rather odd and at other times, difficult to follow. Worth a look though if you have any interest in the subject. https://www.kevindorst.com/stranger_apologies
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
~John Milton~
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