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Fake News

What is fake news? How long has fake news been around? What is Google and Facebook doing about it?

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Fake News

  1. 1. The good, the bad and the totally incorrect Phil Bradley www.philb.com November 2017
  2. 2. What exactly is ‘fake news’? • “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting” Collins English Dictionary Reporters with various forms of ‘fake news’ from a 1894 illustration by Frederick Burr Opper
  3. 3. Fake news has been around for a very long time • Easter 1475, A Franciscan preacher gave a series of sermons claiming the Jewish community had murdered a child and drained his blood to celebrate Passover. The entire community was arrested and 15 were found guilty and burned at the stake. This is part of the foundation for anti-Semitism. • An entire series of fake news pamphlets were produced after the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 to claim that survivors owed their lives to an apparition of the Virgin Mary. • Benjamin Franklin created propaganda stories that Native Americans were working with the British and scalping American patriots.
  4. 4. Reasons for fake news or ‘alternative facts’ • Money • The more outrageous the story, the more likely people are to click on it, visit a website and click on an advert, making money for the site owner
  5. 5. Sorry, how much? • Robert Shooltz makes $1,000 a month with Real News Right Now • Paris Wade and Ben Goldman made up to $40,000 per month with LibertyWriters.com in the runup to the 2016 US presidential election • Cameron Harris, a grad student looking to pay back his student loans made $1,000 an hour from his ChristianTimesNewspaper site. • ‘Dimitri’ from Macedonia earned $60,000 in 6 months by creating hundreds of fake news websites Sources: http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/article/2017/oct/04/more-outrageous-better-how-clickbait-ads-make-mone/ https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/fake-news-how-partying-macedonian-teen-earns-thousands-publishing-lies-n692451
  6. 6. More reasons • Propaganda • For political, religious or economic reasons
  7. 7. More reasons • Parody and satire • ‘The Onion’ “Internet crashes as billions of people go online to purchase The Onion’s latest book ‘The Trump Leaks’.
  8. 8. More reasons • To confirm and publicise a bias or believe regardless of the facts • Flat earthers, Moon landing hoax
  9. 9. More reasons • To infect the computer with malware
  10. 10. More reasons • To increase social media presence
  11. 11. How to spot fake news • What is the date on the item? • All articles just lead back to one resource • Does the news report come from a satirical site? • Check all of the details – even the tiniest • Check the image! Is it real, incorrectly attributed or photoshopped? • Where in the world has this happened?
  12. 12. https://www.refme.com/blog/2016/04/19/the-craap-test-an-easy-fun-way-to-evaluate-research-sources/
  13. 13. The date on the item
  14. 14. However… • The story originated in August 2011 and was about cash transactions for metal in order to deter metal thieves. • Revised legislation in June 2012 amended this law
  15. 15. United Airlines shares fall on false report of bankruptcy • September 2008 $1 billion in value of shares was wiped from United Airlines stock • Shares fell to $3 from more than $12 in less than an hour • Trading was then halted for the day to work out what was going on •So what happened?
  16. 16. The history • 2002-2006 UA operated under bankruptcy protection • A reporter for Income Securities Advisers found an old article on the Chicago Tribune, with a fresh date, next to an article about a current hurricane warning • The reporter included the link in a summary of bankruptcy items posted to the ISA site. • This was picked up by Bloomberg • They sent out a news headline referring to the article
  17. 17. The history continued • Then as a result millions of shares changed hands; more than 54 million in fact • Market was halted at 11.08am • ISA removed the item from their summary on Bloomberg and issued a correction • Bloomberg did the same
  18. 18. All articles just lead back to one resource • Jasmine Tridevil underwent cosmetic surgery to add a third breast
  19. 19. Let’s pick this apart • JasmineTridevil.com registered to Alisha Hessler, a Tampa Florida massage therapist • Tridevil agreed to an interview with a local radio station to discuss her self produced reality show • Her Facebook page and YouTube account were the primary sources for verification
  20. 20. CNN reporter was too enthusiastic
  21. 21. Does the news report come from a satirical site? • These sites are not obvious, and they do look official • They write stories that are designed to look accurate in order to get visits to sell advertising
  22. 22. And more… • Huzlers • Empire News • Stuppid • News Examiner • Newswatch33 • Naha Daily • Empire Herald
  23. 23. Check all of the details – even the tiniest • washingtonpost.com.co is not the same as washingtonpost.com • Who wrote the article? • When was it written? • Try a related: search for the site on Google • Try a link: search for the site on Google
  24. 24. Article in the New York Times, July 17, 2009
  25. 25. Check the image! Is it real, incorrectly attributed or photoshopped? • Plenty of reverse image search tools • Google Image Search https://images.google.com/ • TinEye http://tineye.com/ • Yandex https://www.yandex.com/images/ • Karma Decay http://karmadecay.com/ • Wolfram’s https://www.imageidentify.com/ • Image Raider https://www.imageraider.com/
  26. 26. Where in the world has this happened?
  27. 27. So, what do we do? • Check!
  28. 28. Search for it! • Run a search, and perhaps add ‘hoax’ or ‘fake’
  29. 29. Do NOT trust search engine results; featured snippets
  30. 30. Correct as of November 2014
  31. 31. Cure for cancer? Really? Many people have cured their newly diagnosed cancer by using a very healthy diet and drinking a quart of carrot juice (with a little beet juice mixed in) every day. That is all they did. In fact, if all cancer patients did that instead of using chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, the “cure rate” for cancer in America would jump dramatically.
  32. 32. https://www.wsj.com/articles/googles-featured-answers-aim-to-distill-truthbut-often-get-it-wrong-1510847867
  33. 33. Holocaust denial sites
  34. 34. A quick quiz… which of these results can’t you trust?
  35. 35. Research the site • Check the Wayback Machine https://web.archive.org/
  36. 36. Kelley was named as the shooter in the massacre at Sutherland Springs Texas, with 26 dead. Paul Watson is a far right commentator. Unfounded allegations
  37. 37. Censorship
  38. 38. Not just search engines! http://nypost.com/2017/10/02/facebook-admits-it-promoted-fake-vegas- massacre-stories/ Facebook admitted Monday that its system automatically promoted stories that falsely identified the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre. The social network said links from websites such as The Gateway Pundit and others were posted and spread across their site Sunday night. The stories claimed the shooter was an “anti-Trump” Democrat and displayed pictures of a man who is not identified as a suspect. In a statement, Facebook said, “We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused.”
  39. 39. What are search engines and Facebook trying to do? • The Trust Project • An international consortium of news organisations collaborating to build a more trustworthy and trusted press • Search engines like Google and social media platforms are participating as external partners
  40. 40. Facebook is rolling out ‘Related Articles’ that appear below news links to stories that lots of people are posting about or are suspected of being false news.
  41. 41. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/02/las-vegas-shooting-facebook-google-fake-news-shooter
  42. 42. Google feeds confirmation bias
  43. 43. Why? • Google/Facebook shift the blame to algorithms when this happens • BUT Google/Facebook write those same algorithms, making them responsible for what they publish. • CNN’s Jonathon Morgan stated that the algorithms are often designed to “show attention grabbing, influential content to exactly the people most likely to be manipulated by it” • http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/09/opinions/social-media-platforms-spreading-disinformation-opinion-morgan/index.html • Danny Sullivan (Google’s public relations staffer for search) said • “We weren’t happy that those tweets… were showing up that way. We may need to make some changes here. For whatever reason those are getting there, it wasn’t by intent, it wasn’t by design and it wasn’t something we’re striving to keep.” • https://gizmodo.com/once-again-google-promoted-disinformation-and-propagan-1820166979
  44. 44. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/google-search-algorithm-ranking-eric-schmidt-fake-news-filter-bubble-a8070261.html
  45. 45. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet • “Let’s say that this group believes Fact A and this group believes Fact B and you passionately disagree with each other and you are all publishing and writing about it and so forth and so on…” •“It is very difficult for us to understand truth” • Halifax International Security Forum November 2017
  46. 46. It’s going to get even harder… https://youtu.be/ohmajJTcpNk
  47. 47. Useful sites • Fact check (esp. for US politics) http://www.factcheck.org/ • Hoax Slayer http://www.hoax-slayer.com/ • Who what when (graphic time lines) http://www.sbrowning.com/whowhatwhen/ • Claimbuster automated live fact checking http://idir- server2.uta.edu/claimbuster/ • Poynter http://www.poynter.org/category/fact-checking/ • Verification handbook http://verificationhandbook.com/
  48. 48. More useful stuff • Markham Nolan: How to separate fact and fiction online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNV4yIyXXX0 • Full fact (UK) https://fullfact.org/ • Emergent a real time rumour tracker http://www.emergent.info/ • Is Twitter wrong? Twitter account https://twitter.com/IsTwitWrong • PicPedant https://twitter.com/PicPedant • Journalists resource http://journalistsresource.org/tip- sheets/reporting/tools-verify-assess-validity-social-media-user- generated-content
  49. 49. Thank you! • philipbradley@gmail.com • www.philb.com • https://www.facebook.com/Phil-Bradley-Internet-consultant- 121659284515648 • http://www.philbradley.typepad.com/ • http://www.pearltrees.com/philbradley • http://www.scoop.it/u/Philb